Coming into tonight's outing with a half-game lead over Miami for the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, the Celtics made a trip to Auburn Hills for the final time of the season to take on Detroit, who had won seven of their previous 11 games. The last time these two teams met, a couple of weeks ago on March 22, the Celtics let the game get away from them and then subsequently got torched in overtime in their "great white buffalo" game of the week.
The Celtics needed to get this one, and they took care of business.
Detroit got some early paint buckets from the big man combo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, but Boston's second unit came in and completely hijacked the momentum halfway through the opening frame. Brad Stevens' bench was the story from the jump in this one, as the second unit scored 18 unanswered points in the final four minutes of the first quarter as Boston closed with a 22-2 run.
The Celtics got 33 points off the bench in the first half and thanks to the attack mentality set by Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Bass, the Celtics got to the line for 18 free throw attempts by intermission, burying all of them. Boston created a lot of opportunities in the pick n' roll, spread the floor well, made it a point to constantly attack the paint and really put a lot of pressure on the opposition by imposing their will as the more aggressive team.
Detroit's 15-4 run in the third quarter brought Boston's 16-point lead down to a one-possession game, but the Beantown bench brigade was locked and loaded with another loud response to close the third quarter in dominant fashion. Isaiah Thomas scored 13 points in the last five and a half minutes of the third frame, leading the charge on a 23-7 run heading into the fourth quarter, marking a 36-point quarter for Boston and a 17-point lead.
Thomas was absolutely outstanding, attacking the rack in vintage form in the pick n' roll, out in transition and isolation situations. The little fella got everywhere he wanted all night, knifing his way to the rim with his herky-jerky style off the bounce, finishing at the rim (10-17 FG) and knocking down 10 of his 11 free throw attempts. Oh yeah, he was feeling it from beyond the arc, as well, burying four of eight triples on his way to 34 points and six assists.
Jae Crowder deserves a lot of credit for the impact he made on this game, as well. Per usual, Crowder created a lot of extra possessions with his never-give-up-on-a-play mentality and really contributed to the way Boston attacked the paint, as he went 9-9 from the free throw line.
The Boston bench brought a great deal of energy as a whole, combining for 73 points and 26 free throws.
Detroit's bigs were still too much to handle when they were on the floor, as Andre Drummond put up 22 points and 14 boards in 27 minutes while Greg Monroe dropped 19 and 10. Not to mention, former Boston College Eagle Reggie Jackson continued to fill up the stat sheet. He was one rebound away from a triple-double in Detroit's OT victory on March 22, and he followed up with 21 points and 15 assists tonight.
When Isaiah Thomas is healthy and the Celtics play with that kind of mentality to come out as the more aggressive team, they operate at a completely elevated level. Attack! Attack! Attack some more!
Boston currently stands in seventh place, tied with Brooklyn for the final two slots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Celtics will be back in action on Friday night at The Q to take on LeBron and the Cavaliers at 7:30 pm ET.