With Amir Johnson back and news that Marcus Smart was on the verge of returning (and David Lee out with a sore lower back), this rematch on the road in Detroit was a good barometer of where the team is at. Celtics fans, we're in a good spot. This was a business trip for Boston. Thirty games into the season, we're no longer talking about rotations and playing time. This is a team that knows what they do well and how to win tough games.
In the Celtics' last game at the Palace, the Celtics were able to keep Andre Drummond in check with 16 & 12. Tonight, Drummond pounded Boston with 22 & 22, but much of it seemed by design. He got his share of putbacks (7 offensive rebounds), but Brad Stevens seemed content allowing him to catch the ball in the paint on ICE'd pick-and-rolls and putting up that baby hook. The Celtics again employed the Hack-a-Drummond and AD finished 4-for-10 from the line. It's an ugly strategy, but it kept the big man effectively out of the final three minutes.
Tonight felt like one of those games where defensively, Boston's 3rd best defense in the league finished possessions 95% of the time, allowing a bunch of offensive rebounds (18), giving up 25 second chance points, and losing most of the 50-50 balls. They cleaned that up in the second half and only allowed 93 points total on 38 FG%. Ten days ago, the Pistons put up 119, their most in a regulation game.
After finishing the first half leading 51-46 on some hot shooting (46.8 FG%), Jared Sullinger took advantage of his size difference over Ersan Ilyasova and scored 8 of his 10 points in the third quarter. Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller worked the pick and pop in the fourth and Jae Crowder closed it out with clutch buckets down the stretch. The lead stretched out to 16 and it got a little hairy at the end with a phantom elbow and an offensive foul on Turner, but Jonas Jerebko, the ex-Piston, nailed a baseline jumper to seal it. It was a huge play for JJ who was only in the game for defensive purposes.
Over the last handful of games, Isaiah Thomas has looked more the point guard. In the month of December, he's averaged over 7 assists per game, looking to create more rather than scoring. He had a rough shooting night going 4-for-14, but he added 9 more assists to his impressive dime numbers for the month. Avery Bradley had 18 points and 3 steals to lead the Celtics and played great D on Reggie Jackson. Four Celtics--Crowder, Turner, Sullinger, and Johnson--finished in double figures. Kelly Olynyk chipped in 9 points off the bench.