For much of Boston's recent slump, their achilles heel has been their poor first quarter play. They tended to fall behind when their starters were in to open the contest, and had to dig themselves out of that hole. Tonight, against Detroit, Boston was able to flip the script, and came out with guns blazing. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as they relinquished their lead midway through the 4th quarter, and were unable to hold off the Pistons.
The Kelly Olynyk-as-a-starter experiment saw positive results tonight, as the big man led a first quarter onslaught with ten points in the first stanza. The Celtics were settling for jump shots for much of the first quarter, except when they weren't drive-and-dumping it to Amir Johnson for dunks down low. However, the majority of those jump shots came off of either high-quality penetration or rapid ball movement. Additionally, Boston took very good care of the ball, and only recorded 10 turnovers in the contest.
That style of play allowed Boston to enter halftime with a 7-point lead.
Unfortunately, as hero ball and poor shooting by the boys in green allowed Reggie Jackson and the Pistons to retake the lead halfway through the final quarter.
Despite a terrible shooting night from the floor (6-20), Isaiah Thomas came alive in the 4th quarter. He scored 15 points in the frame, putting the team on his back, despite not being able to knock down just about anything. Thomas also had a very impressive night as a distributor, finishing with 10 assists to go with his 22 points.
It would not be enough, as Jackson put on a show and dragged Detroit across the finish line to a victory.
From a standings perspective, this one hurts - we were up only a half game on the Pistons. As a result, we have dropped to 8th in the Eastern Conference, with Orlando and New York in striking distance. In the increasingly crowded East playoff race, every win is significant, especially against a fellow playoff contender.
- Jae Crowder had another impressive night, with 16 points on 50% shooting, 4 rebounds, and a couple of steals. If he can continue to play as well as he has recently, he figures to be an even better puzzle piece than anticipated.
- Amir Johnson was dominant down low tonight; he logged 16 points and 11 rebounds (plus a pair of blocks), while holding the monstrous Andre Drummond to only 13 points and 5 boards. Hopefully we continue to see this sort of high-level performance from him more consistently moving forward.
- IT and Marcus Smart are confident to a fault. The two of them shot a combined 7-30, and that was only after Thomas' impressive 4th quarter. When they aren't shooting well, it would be nice to see them force the issue a little less. And before anyone says anything, yes, Thomas had 10 assists, but he also had 14 missed shots.
Boston will look to get back on track tomorrow night in Chicago, while Detroit will attempt to extend their streak when they take on the Nets on Saturday.