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Full squad for the first time makes all the difference

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Celtics defeat the Pistons 94-92

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics had the full roster available for the first time this season, as Al Horford and Jae Crowder returned from injury and Marcus Smart was able to play through his sprained ankle. It made all the difference in a 94-92 Celtics victory. Horford made two game winning plays with a follow up shot to put Boston ahead and then blocking Aron Baynes’ last minute jumper to seal the victory.

Horford led the way with a line of 18 points on 7-12 shooting from the floor and 2-3 from three, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks. Horford was also a game high +16 in plus/minus for the game. Isaiah Thomas tied Marcus Morris with a game high 24 points.

Horford and Crowder joined Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Amir Johnson in the starting lineup. Outside of a cameo appearance at the end of the third quarter, Brad Stevens ran a 10 man rotation with Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.

The Celtics ball movement was excellent early as they had seven assists on 10 made field goals in the first quarter. They shot 6-10 from three in the quarter as well. All five starters got multiple touches throughout the quarter and the continued when the second unit hit the floor.

In the second quarter, things slowed down for Boston, as the shooting dipped. The ball movement continued with 14 assists on 18 buckets. The bigger challenge was that the Celtics weren’t getting clean looks with the second unit. Terry Rozier’s playmaking continues to be in question. He simply takes too long to make things happen when he has the ball.

The Pistons defense locked down in the third and made things particularly tough on Boston. That extended into the fourth quarter, as Boston scored only 44 points after halftime. Again, it was the second unit struggles that caused the issues. That group just doesn’t have enough scoring or playmaking to get it done.

Andre Drummond had 20 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons. Morris and Harris were a handful all night for Detroit, as they combined for 43 points on 17-32 shooting. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was missing in action all night, hitting just one late three pointer.

The Celtics finished with 22 assists on 33 field goals. They only had 8 total turnovers. And they held their own on the boards at just -4 for the night. The pace was also solid as they got up 82 shots and 17 free throw attempts. Everyone who played also contributed at least one basket as well.

Brad Stevens also rolled out the highly anticipated IT & D lineup of Thomas, Bradley, Smart, Crowder and Horford for the first time. That group essentially closed both halves and was +4 and held the Pistons to 14 points. When that group gels and the communication is better, it could be Boston’s best lineup.

Overall, it was an encouraging performance for Boston with the full squad for the first time. Everything was crisper and cleaner on both ends of the floor. It was certainly a welcomed return back to the gritty, fun group Celtics fans have come to expect from the last few years.