After a slow start to the season that featured a frustrating lack of offensive consistency, the Boston Celtics found a seemingly perfect cure in the form of a match-up against the formerly undefeated Detroit Pistons.
Now, they’ll get to do it all over again. After handling the Pistons on their home court, 109-89, the two teams travel to Boston to face off for the second time in just four days.
Now sitting pretty at 4-2, the Celtics are finally finding some momentum, and Saturday’s victory was arguably the their most complete performance of the season, led by the wing rotation of Jaylen Brown (19 points), Gordon Hayward (15) and Marcus Morris (18). Kyrie Irving and Al Horford combined for only seven points in less than 25 minutes apiece, but it didn’t matter — fueled by a dominant performance from the Bench With Attitude, who outscored the Pistons’ reserves 62-34, the Celtics grabbed the lead four minutes into the game and never relinquished it.
It was a significant let-down for a Pistons team that had opened the season with a little pep in their step, sprinting out of the gates to a 4-0 start that included a thrilling last-second win over the Philadelphia 76ers last Tuesday. Blake Griffin entered play averaging 33 points per game, but managed only seven points on 2-of-13 shooting against Boston, and the starting guard duo of Reggies — Jackson and Bullock — combined for 14 on 5-of-20. Only Andre Drummond (18 points, eight boards) and Stanley Johnson (16 points) really seemed to show up to play, far from enough to keep piece with a Boston squad that was firing on all cylinders.
Despite the shiny 4-1 record, the Pistons look like a classic instance of a team playing a little over their heads. All four of their wins have come by two scores or less, three of which against teams likely to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference — Brooklyn, New York and Cleveland. Saturday’s 20-point defeat actually means the Pistons have been outscored by their opponents on the season, and their -1.4 net rating ranks them a perfectly average 15th in the league. In other words, their reign as the Eastern Conference’s third seed seems likely to be short-lived.
On the injury front, the Celtics’ hobbled frontcourt may be a point of concern tonight, matched up against Detroit’s bruising duo of Griffin and Andre Drummond. Daniel Theis had his best game of the season on Saturday, scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds, but is now out indefinitely after suffering a slight tear in his planar fascia in his right foot. In his place, the Celtics will likely return Aron Baynes, who has labeled himself 100% — and has been labeled by the team as “Probable” — after missing the past three games with a hamstring injury.
Rookie Robert Williams made his NBA debut in the win, blocking three shots and slamming home a highlight-reel dunk off a feed from Marcus Smart, and he could stand to see some more minutes tonight in Theis’ absence, especially if the team opts to take things slow with Baynes. For the Pistons, second-year wing Luke Kennard remains out with a shoulder sprain he suffered in the team’s win over Cleveland last Thursday.
PG - Kyrie Irving – Reggie Jackson
SG - Jaylen Brown – Reggie Bullock
SF - Gordon Hayward – Stanley Johnson
PF - Jayson Tatum – Blake Griffin
C - Al Horford – Andre Drummond
Boston - Daniel Theis (Foot), Jabari Bird (Personal)
Detroit - Luke Kennard (Shoulder)
How to Watch
Time - 7:30 EST
TV - NBC Sports Boston