1. The Celtics eight-game win streak came to an end in Detroit, as the Pistons snapped a six-game slide of their own. Looking at it like that makes it seem worse than it really was. Boston simply hit a bump in the road on the second night of a back-to-back, with travel. Having flown 14 consecutive times prior to games seemed to catch up to the Celtics, as they looked like they had heavy legs and tired brains throughout the game.
Detroit isn’t as bad as a six-game losing streak would suggest. And Boston wasn’t going to rip off a 62-game run to end the season. A loss was bound to come. One good sign? The Celtics still fought and made it a more competitive game than it could have been, after they were behind by double-digits for most of the fourth quarter.
2. Marcus Morris had a rough shooting night, as hit just 3-of-10 overall and missed all six of his three-point attempts. Morris missed a lot of shots he’s been hitting, so a one-game slump isn’t the end of the world. One place he did show up was as a passer. Early on Boston ran a lot of the offense through Morris, as he had assists on the Celtics first three possessions. On this play, Morris attacks a closeout and finds Aron Baynes for an easy layup:
3. A lot is made of how Boston likes to switch everything on defense. This can leave the Celtics caught in mismatches, but it doesn’t happen as often as you would think. They excel at switch-backs and jump-switches, which involve getting guys back to more favorable matchups. Part of this is scrambling, or “scramming” guys away from the mismatch. When they don’t execute the scram correctly, it usually ends up in a good look for the opponent.
Watch Daniel Theis and Gordon Hayward here. Theis contests in the corner against Reggie Bullock, forcing him to give it up. That is great, as chasing Bullock off a shot is a win. But watch what happens next. Theis tries to scram Hayward back to Bullock and off Jon Leuer. But there is a moment’s hesitation on the scram. That leaves Theis late to challenge Reggie Jackson’s drive:
This caught the Celtics a handful of times throughout the game. Since they are usually excellent with this technique, it’s a telltale sign the team was just off their game.
4. While Theis, and his teammates, had a hard time with the defense, Theis’ individual offense was again very good. He scored eight points and knocked down a couple of three-pointers. Next time you watch Theis play, take a second to appreciate the Euro-ness of his game. He never stops moving. Because European basketball is more about movement than individual skill, players learn to move constantly. Theis is always shuffling and moving and finding space for himself. It’s a huge part of his success as an offensive player.
5. It was a night to forget for Terry Rozier. In addition, it was a performance that further cemented Rozier isn’t really a point guard. He’s a combo/scoring guard. Nothing wrong with that. That is a valuable role in the NBA. But his lead guard skills just aren’t where they need to be to run an offense on a fulltime basis. Several times in this game alone, Rozier was late with passes. In addition, he would go away from mismatches Boston had to run something on the other side of the floor. With Marcus Smart in the starting lineup, Rozier has more playmaking responsibility on the second unit. To date, that’s not been a great thing for the Celtics.
6. Brad Stevens talked about Robert Williams a lot pregame. He specially mentioned that the team has got to stop trying to force lobs to the high-flying rookie. While Williams can get way up for catches, he can’t be expected to come up with everything. On this play, Smart demonstrates exactly what Stevens was talking about, as this play had no chance:
7. Much like Morris, it was a forgettable scoring night for Jayson Tatum for the most part. But, also like Morris, Tatum showed up as a playmaker a couple of times. The second-year player has the scoring game down. If he can open up his passing with more plays like this, he’ll become that much harder to guard:
8. Hayward is almost all the way back. He’s getting where he wants to be on the floor and finding shots for himself and his teammates. His explosion is showing signs of a return too. But what Hayward has always done best is play with personal pace. He knows when to speed it up and when to slow it down to make plays. Here he drives hard, then slows it down, hangs for a moment and gets the layup:
9. Where did it fall apart for Boston? In the third quarter. An old problem of containing dribble penetration cropped back up. This time around though, it wasn’t just opposing guards. Blake Griffin, who is having an All-NBA year, carved Boston up. He finished with six assists, as he regularly found Andre Drummond at the rim or teammates around the arc for jumpers.
On offense, the Celtics let the ball get sticky. They had just 19 assists on 39 baskets. That isn’t anywhere near the assist-rate Stevens wants. In addition, Boston threw it away 14 times. Combine the sloppiness on offense with the aforementioned sloppiness on defense, and you have a losing formula.
10. Yet, despite it all, the Celtics rallied and made it interesting, as they are prone to do. Boston turned up the defensive pressure, as they forced nine of the Pistons 20 turnovers in the fourth quarter. Smart was predictably in the middle of everything, as he scored eight points in the final frame and helped to force four Detroit giveaways. Alas, the Celtics just couldn’t get that one big bucket down the stretch to swing things back their way.