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Celtics host the Detroit Pistons and look to tie season series

The Celtics host the Detroit Pistions for the 4th and final time this season looking to tie the series at 2-2.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Pistons (27-23) at Boston Celtics (28-22)
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #51, Home Game #25
TV: CSNNE, FS Detroit, NBA-LP 753(xfinity), 755(DTV)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 105.1 FM
TD Garden

Referees: Courtney Kirkland, Eric Dalen, Karl Lane

The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons for the 4th and final game this season. Detroit leads the series 2-1 with Boston winning one game in Detroit and Detroit winning one in Detroit and one in Boston. All 3 games were fairly close with the Celtics winning by 6 and the Pistons winning by 3 and then 5.

This is the second of back to back games for the Celtics. They played the Knicks on the road on Tuesday night and then traveled home to face the Pistons in this one. The Celtics are 8-3 overall in the second of back to back games. One of those 3 losses was to the Pistons. They are 3-1 in the second game when the series is road/home.

Both teams are looking for their second straight win. The Celtics are now 4th in the East, tied with Atlanta, who owns the tie breaker. The Celtics are 1/2 game ahead of Chicago(5) and Miami who has slipped to 6th. Detroit is in the 7th spot, 1.5 games behind the Celtics. This is an important game for the Celtics because the Pistons will be in the playoff mix and it wouldn't be good for the Celtics to allow them to have the tie breaker.
The Celtics have won 5 straight at home and have won 6 of their last 7 overall. They have been winning their games with tough defense and up until the beginning of January, Detroit was ranked in the top 10 defensively, allowing just 99 points per game. Since Jan. 9 their defense has slipped, allowing 105.4 points per game and they have gone 5-7 over that time.

Jae Crowder was questionable for Tuesday night's game vs the Knicks but played and didn't seem to be hampered by the shin/calf injury that he suffered on Sunday against the Magic. I expect him to play again in this game. Jordan Mickey is still out with the ankle injury but probably would go back to the Red Claws before getting meaningful minutes for the Celtics.
The Pistons are playing with a variety of injuries. Reggie Jackson has been playing through a thigh bruise and injured his thumb in Monday's game and aggravated it again in Tuesday's practice. Ilyasova is just back from a strained adductor. Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are playing through minor knee issues. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been playing through a strained oblique muscle. All are expected to play in this one. Jodie Meeks is out for the Pistons with a foot injury.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jared Sullinger

Celtics Reserves
Kelly Olynyk
Jonas Jerebko
Terry Rozier
James Young
Evan Turner
Jordan Mickey
Tyler Zeller
David Lee
RJ Hunter
Marcus Smart

Jordan Mickey (ankle) out

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Marcus Morris
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Andre Drummond

Pistons Reserves
Joel Anthony
Aron Baynes
Steve Blake
Reggie Bullock
Spencer Dinwiddie
Darrun Hilliard
Stanley Johnson
Anthony Tolliver
Brandon Jennings

Jodie Meeks (foot) out

Head Coach

Stan Van Gundy

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Reggie Jackson
Jackson is very quick and is always a threat to drive to the basket. He is averaging 19.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 0.9 steals. We will probably see Avery Bradley covering Jackson if he starts to get hot.

Jared Sullinger vs Andre Drummond
Drummond is a beast in the paint on both ends of the court and is averaging 17.2 points, 15.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. Last season in the 3 games against the Celtics, he averaged 22.3 point and 16.7 rebounds. In the three games this season, he is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds. Drummond's weakness seems to be from the line where he is shooting just 34.6%. The Celtics will have their hands full trying to slow him down on offense and on the boards.

Honorable Mention

Avery Bradley vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
In the first game between these two teams, Caldwell-Pope scored a career high 31 points and he hit 4 clutch free throws down the stretch. He came back to earth with just 6 points in the second game. But he is capable of having a big game and so the Celtics need to stay with him on defense. He is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game for the season.

Keys to the Game
Run, Run, Run - The Celtics have proved that when they run and move the ball up the court quickly, good things happen. When they over dribble and slow the game down, they struggle all the way around. They need to push the ball on every opportunity and push the pace, but also play under control.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be aggressive in going for loose balls, rebounding and defending. They also have to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for long jumpers, especially when those long jumpers aren't falling. Good things happen when they get into the paint. They have to be hungry and play like the team that wants it more. They have to play aggressively for 48 minutes.

Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire. The Celtics will need both in order to beat the big front line of the Pistons to the rebounds. The Pistons are 3rd in the league in rebounding with 47.2 per game. They are just 3-13 when they are out rebounded by their opponents. The Celtics will have to work extra hard to beat them to the boards.

Defense- The Celtics need to play tough team defense, especially in the paint. It doesn't matter how much they score if they can't stop the Pistons from scoring more. Both teams pride themselves on defense. The Pistons are allowing just 100.6 points per game while the Celtics are allowing 100.7 points per game. The Pistons are 20-6 when allowed to score 100 points or more. They are 19-5 when they shoot 33% or higher from beyond the arc. The Celtics must play tough team defense and get stops especially at the end of the game. No let ups!

Play as a Team - The Celtics have to play as a team and move the ball to find the open man. They have to defend as a team and rebound as a team. Hero ball rarely wins games and so they need to have each other's backs and play together. The Celtics are best when they spread the scoring and play as a team.

Move the Ball - The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man. They struggle to score when the ball stops moving. In the Celtics most recent losses they averaged 18 assists. They are 5th in the league in assists with 24.3 and it's not a coincidence that they win when their assist total is higher and they lose when it is lower.

Home and BtoB Factor - Usually playing at home means that the team will get a boost from the home crowd and it gives them an advantage. It is also the second of back to back games and the Celtics pride themselves in playing well in those games although they lost to the Pistons earlier this season in the second of back to back games.

Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Will the refs let them play or will they call every little bit of contact. Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. In the first game vs the Pistons, the Celtics took just 24 free throws to 43 for the Pistons and the Pistons got the benefit of quite a few questionable calls. In the second game, the Celtics win, The Pistons took 25 free throws to 23 for the Celtics and the officiating was more even and fair. This time? Who knows?

Official Report
Courtney Kirkland

Over the past 15 seasons, Courtney Kirkland has officiated 911 regular season games and 7 playoff games. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, including the 2000 WNBA Finals and the 1999 Conference Finals. Kirkland also officiated the 2010 and 2011 Venezuelan LPB basketball championships. Prior to joining the NBA, Kirkland worked three seasons in the CBA where he officiated the 1999 and 2000 CBA Finals as well as the 2000 CBA All-Star Game. He was a high school official for four years as a member of the Baton Rouge (La.) Basketball Officials Association and was named Rookie Official of the Year in 1994.

Kirkland earned some measure of notoriety when he jumped in to block a Kris Humphries free throw in a Nets game two seasons ago. Last season in a game vs the Grizzlies, there were quite a few terrible calls. One of the worst was when the ball hit the rim and the Celtics tipped it in and they called a 24 second violation without checking on the monitors in spite of pleas by every Celtic to do so. There were a lot of head scratching calls and non-calls in that game. In the win over the Pacers last season the free throw differential wasn't bad with 18 for the Celtics and 23 for the Pacers, but there were quite a few head scratching calls prompting "That's terrible!!" from Tommy several times.

Then, in a game vs the Pistons last season, the Celtics shot 34 free throws to 10 for the Pistons and the Celtics got the benefit of many of the questionable calls. He called a loss to the Pistons this season where the Pistons got the benefit of quite a few questionable calls. Detroit shot 43 free throws to 24 for the Celtics. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games that Kirkland officiated. He can be good or bad depending on the game. The Pistons are 3-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Kirkland. Kirkland calls an average of 39.6 fouls per game and 45.9% are called on the road team. His home W/L record this season is 22-12.

Eric Dalen

Eric Dalen officiated 367regular season games in his first seven NBA seasons. Prior to the NBA, Dalen worked for five seasons in the NBA D-League and officiated the 2008 All-Star Game and Finals. He also officiated for three years in the Southeastern Conference. Dalen was a two-year letter winner at the University of Minnesota where he played tight end for the football team.

I couldn't find much controversy on the guy other than an article where Andrew Bynum was complaining about Dalen calling all 6 fouls on him in a game in 2008. Some games he has called for the Celtics have been evenly called and well officiated while others have been terrible with bad and no calls and one sided officiating. In a game vs Detroit last season, the Celtics shot 34 free throws to 10 for the Pistons and the Celtics got the benefit of most of the questionable calls. He may be good or he may be bad depending on the other refs and the game.

He called the game vs the Sixers this season and the officiating was good and they let them play. Just 18 free throws for the Celtics and 15 for the Sixers. The Celtics are 2-3 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Dalen. The Pistons are 1-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10. Dalen calls 40.4 fouls per game with 51.3% called on the home team. His home W/L record this season is 19-15.

Karl Lane

Karl Lane enters his fourth year having officiated 159 regular season games. Lane’s experience includes four seasons and 167 games officiated in the D-League. He also has four seasons of NBA preseason game experience and worked in NBA summer camps for six years. In addition to his professional experience, Lane officiated collegiate games for nine years in the SWAC and Gulf South Conference and has nine years of high school officiating experience.

Lane isn't one of Tommy's favorite refs. But then again, who is? Two seasons ago vs the Cavs, Lane got under Tommy's skin a bit and after 3 bad calls in a row, Tommy said "This guy doesn't have a clue. His name's Lane. They should show him the highway." In a win over the Bulls, the officiating was terrible and Lane once again got under Tommy's skin after 3 terrible calls in a row. Then to top it off, with 6.2 seconds left, he made another bad call that fouled Avery out, prompting Tommy to yell" I don't recall a game when there was such a plethora of terrible calls throughout." The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Lane while the Pistons are 1-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10. Lane's home W/L record is 19-11.

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