A nine-day All-Star break was just what the Celtics and Marcus Smart needed to rediscover their swagger. Throw in some timely bench contributions from Daniel Theis, and the Celtics had all the ingredients they needed to throttle the Pistons, 110-98, Friday night at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
After an 11-game absence, Smart returned to game action. With 5:10 left in the first quarter, Smart replaced Al Horford and entered for the first time since his self-inflicted right hand injury in Los Angeles Jan. 23. Smart finished with 12 points and six assists in 26 minutes. Click here for the full box score. Boston’s bench dominated Detroit’s reserves 65-21.
Aron Baynes played just three minutes, leaving the game with a left elbow injury. He did not return, but Daniel Theis more than picked up the slack, scoring 12 points off the bench in the first half. He made 8 of 10 shots and finished with a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds. Boston shot 17 of 39 from 3-point range in improving to 41-19 on the season.
Jayson Tatum, who hit a rookie wall before the All-Star break, appeared to come out of it a bit in the first quarter, draining his first three shots of the game in the first quarter. He finished the first half on 4-for-4 shooting with 11 points, en route to 15 points for the game.
After a fairly brisk first quarter that saw the Pistons take a 28-23 lead, both teams showed significant post-All Star break rust for the first seven minutes of the second quarter.
Back-to-back threes from Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier gave Boston a lead of 48-41 with just under four minutes left in the first half.
The Celtics opened the game 10 of 19 from 3-point range. Jaylen Brown came up with a steal and fed Tatum for a 3-point play as the lead ballooned to 54-44. Brown hit a pair of free throws with 1:07 left in the half to boost the lead to 12, 56-44.
Daniel Theis capped a 10-0 run at the end of the second quarter for a 58-44 lead. After an Andre Drummond back-down on Theis to cut the lead back to 12, Theis came right back for his second three and a 61-46 advantage. That looked like it was going to be the halftime score, but Ish Smith drained a three at the buzzer and trimmed Boston’s lead to 61-49 at the half. The Celtics outscored the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter to seize control of the game.
Theis slams it for a new career-high (14pts) pic.twitter.com/CGeFS4Zmpq— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 24, 2018
Smith hit his first eight shots and helped the Pistons cut the Celtics lead to four, 79-75, before a Kyrie Irving three started a 7-2 Boston run to close the third and give Boston an 86-77 lead heading into the fourth.
The Celtics resumed their 3-point barrage in the fourth quarter as Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier connected midway through to push the lead up to 20, 99-79, with six minutes left.