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Celtics look to get back on track as they visit the Pistons

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The Celtics and Pistons, two teams that stood pat at the trade deadlinein spite of swirling rumors, face each other for the 4th and final time this season.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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Boston Celtics (37-21) at Detroit Pistons (28-30)
Sunday, February 26, 2017
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #59, Road Game #31
TV: CSNNE, FS Detroit, NBA-LP 759(xfinity), 757(DTV)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 105.1 FM
Palace of Auburn Hills
Referees: Derrick Stafford, Nick Buchert, Ben Taylor


The Celtics continue their two game road trip with a visit to Detroit to take on the Pistons for the 4th and final meeting this season. The Celtics are 2-1 so far this season. They won 94-92 in Detroit on 11/19 and also 113-109 on 11/30 both in Boston. The Pistons won 113-109 in Boston on 1/30. Al Horford made the game-winning layup in Boston's other trip to The Palace of Auburn Hills this season. He also added a game-saving block in that 94-92 victory on Nov. 19.

The Celtics have lost their last 2 games while the Pistons have won their last 2 games. Both teams stood pat at the trade deadline and so will have the same teams that competed in the previous games. Andre Drummond was rumored to be on the trade block but the Pistons didn't find a deal they liked. The Celtics made offers on several players but weren't willing to give up what teams were asking for.

The Celtics were at full strength in both of their wins but were missing Avery Bradley in the loss.
The Pistons have won 9 of their last 11 home games and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 10 of their last 13 and 7-3 in their last 10. The Celtics are 17-13 on the road while the Pistons are 18-11 at home.

The Pistons have no injuries listed at this time. The Celtics are almost back to full strength with the return of Jaylen Brown on Friday. Gerald Green is day to day with a heel injury. Avery Bradley went through 1/3 practice on Thursday and traveled with the team. He believes he has recovered fully from the strained Achilles, but the Boston Celtics medical staff has a checklist of things he needs to accomplish before returning to the lineup. He will go through his regular pregame warm up but is not expected to play in this game but may return for Monday's game vs the Hawks.

Every game now is important for the Celtics in the standings. The Pistons are 8th in the East and just 2 games ahead of the red hot Miami Heat who are 9th and pushing to make the playoffs. The Celtics are still 2nd and just 2 games in front of the Wizards, 3 games in front of the Raptors and 4.5 games ahead of the Hawks, all of whom made moves to improve at the trade deadline and are playing well. The Jazz are playing at Washington and the Trailblazers are playing at Toronto.


Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Al Horford
C: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Kelly Olynyk
Jonas Jerebko

Injuries
Avery Bradley (Achilles) out
Gerald Green (heel) day to day

Head Coach
Brad Stevens


Probable Starters

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

Pistons Reserves
Aron Baynes
Henry Ellenson
Michael Gbinije
Darrun Hilliard
Stanley Johnson
Boban Marjanovic
Beno Udrih
Ish Smith
Tobias Harris
Reggie Bullock

Injuries
None

Head Coach
Stan VanGundy

Key Matchups
vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Reggie Jackson
In spite of an off game against the Raptors, Isaiah has been playing very well and has scored 20 or more points in 42 straight games. In the last game against the Pistons, he scored 41 points, with 28 of those coming in the 4th quarter. He is averaging 30.7 points in the 3 games this season. Jackson has averaged 16.2 points in 12 career games vs Boston. He is averaging 14.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on the year. Jackson missed the 11/19 game in Boston.

vs
Amir Johnson vs Andre Drummond
Drummond is a beast in the paint on both ends of the court and is averaging 14.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Last season in the 3 games against the Celtics, he averaged 22.3 points and 16.7 rebounds. In the last game between these two teams on 1/30, Drummond had 28 points and 22 rebounds. Amir will definitely have his hands full trying to slow him down and to rebound against him.

Honorable Mention
Jae Crowder vs Marcus Morris
Morris is averaging 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Morris has had some big games against the Celtics. In the first meeting between these two teams, Morris scored a team high 24 points playing power forward. He's now moved to small forward and Jae will have his hands full keeping Morris from having a big game again in this one.

Keys to the Game
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 other team from scoring more. Their defense has shown some improvement in recent games but still has a ways to go. The Raptors beat them on Friday by playing tough in your face defense and the Celtics couldn't match it. The Pistons are 5th in the league in points allowed with 101.8. The Celtics are 17th in points allowed with 105.7. The Celtics especially has to defend the pick and roll with Reggie Jackson because the Pistons rely on that especially late in games.

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. In their loss to the Pistons this season, the Celtics were out-rebounded 52-33. In their last meeting, the Pistions out-rebounded the Celtics 51-44. The Celtics will have to work extra hard to beat them to the boards if they want to get a win in this game.

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 threes especially if they aren't falling . Good things happen when they get inside. They have to be hungry and play like the team that wants it more. They allowed the Raptors to come back from 17 points down by allowing them to be the team that played harder. The Celtics have to win with effort.

Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics got out to a 17 point lead against the Raptors but then let up and allowed the Raptors to come back. In their last game, the Pistons came back from a 15+ point lead in the 4th quarter for the second time this season to get a win. The Celtics can't afford to let up if they get a lead and they can't come out sluggish and let the Pistons build a lead. They have to start strong and play hard until the final tip.
Bench Scoring - The Pistons bench averages 52.8 points per game. Tobias Harris is capable of having big games and averages 16.4 points off the bench. Ish Smith adds 8.4 points and 5 assists. The Celtics will need to get production from their bench, especially on defense to match up with Detroit's bench.

X-Factors
Motivation - The Celtics are fighting to stay in 2nd place in the East while still holding some hope of catching the Cavaliers, who are about to get much better with a couple of waiver wire additions. The Pistons are fighting to keep the 8th spot and stay ahead of the Heat who are charging up the standings. Which team will use the motivation to play harder and get a win?

Focus - With the trade deadline past, teams now have to focus on the final stretch going into the playoffs. Hopefully the Celtics keep their focus on doing all the little things and not underestimate the Pistons. We know from losses to the Knicks, Trailblazers, and Kings that they can lose focus and get beaten by teams that they should dominate. If the Celtics can stay focused and stay aggressive, especially on defense, they should get a win.

Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently. Some let them play and some call every little touch foul. The Celtics definitely do better when the refs let them play. Hopefully the refs will call the game fairly and let them play in this one. We saw in the past two games that the refs can indeed make a big difference in the outcome of the game.