The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons for the 4th and final game this season. The Celtics are up 2-1 in the series so far. The Celtics won 109-89 on October 27 in Detroit. They also won 108-103 on October 30 in Boston. They lost 104-113 on December 15 in Detroit. Detroit has won at least one game in Boston in each of the last 5 seasons.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games, having beat the 76ers in a close game on Tuesday night. The Celtics are 3-5 so far this season on the second night of back to back games. This is the first time that they are playing the games road/home.
With Tuesday’s win, the Celtics moved into 4th place. They are tied with the Sixers but hold the tie breaker. They are 2 games behind 3rd place Indiana. They are 22-8 at home. The Pistons are hanging onto the 8th spot in the East, half a game behind 7th place Charlotte and 1.5 games behind 6th place Brooklyn. They are 1 game ahead of the Heat, who are in the 9th spot. The Pistons are 9-16 on the road and have won 4 straight games.
The Pistons have no injuries to report. Kyrie Irving is out once again with a sprained knee and Aron Baynes remains out with a foot injury. Terry Rozier is doubtful with an illness. I’m going to guess that Stevens starts Brown at shooting guard and moves Marcus to the point. However, he may just start Brad Wannamaker.
Even if he doesn’t start, Wannamaker will get increased minutes if Rozier is out. I expect the Celtics to activate either PJ Dozier or RJ Hunter for depth for this game. This is the Celtics final game before All Star Weekend and it couldn’t come at a better time. They don’t play again until they face the Bucks on February 21.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Aron Baynes (foot) out
Terry Rozier (illness) doubtful
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Langston Galloway
SF: Bruce Brown
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Andre Drummond
Two Way Players
Marcus Morris vs Blake Griffin
Griffin is having a great year in Detroit, averaging 26.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Marcus Morris has talked about the need to be more physical and play harder and he will need to put that into action if he hopes to slow down Griffin, who had 27 points in the Celtics loss in their last meeting.
Al Horford vs Andre Drummond
Drummond is averaging 17.1 points, 14.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. The Celtics will need to keep Drummond off the boards in particular as he had 20 rebounds in the Pistons lone win over the Celtics this season. Al had a tough matchup vs Embiid against the Sixers and once again will be key to getting a win in this one. We could see some Time Lord against Drummond as well.
Marcus Smart vs Reggie Jackson
Jackson is averaging 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He is capable of scoring a lot of points and quickly if not guarded well. If Smart starts at point, heneeds to play tough defense as well as to look for his own offense to make Jackson work on the other end.
Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense always is important to winning. When the Celtics lose it’s usually because they allow their defense to slip. The Celtics’ defensive rating has slipped to 5th (105.5). The Pistons are a good defensive team as well with a defensive rating of 107.9 (7th). They have to commit to playing tough lock down defense in every game.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire. The Celtics will need both in order to beat front line of the Pistons to the rebounds. They have been lacking both in recent games and hopefully they have realized that and will up their effort in games.
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 have to play aggressively for 48 minutes.
Play the Right Way - They have been lacking in this area recently. They need to move the ball and make the extra pass to find the best shot available. They have to be focused and take care of the ball. They have to play as a TEAM on both ends of the court with no one trying to do too much.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to start strong and not let up. They can’t get a lead as they have in the past and then let up and allow the opponent to catch up and they can’t start slow and have to spend the game trying to make up a huge deficit. They have to play hard from start to finish.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and should get a boost from the home crowd. Also, the Pistons are just 9-16 on the road and so the Celtics need to take advantage of the friendly atmosphere and exploit the Pistons’ struggles on the road.
Back to Back- The Celtics had a tough game on Tuesday and then had to travel afterwards to play in this one while the Pistons are rested. Fatigue could come into play in this one for the Celtics if the Pistons keep it close and they have to play hard throughout.
Let Down Game - The Celtics played hard against the Sixers and came away with a big win. Now they face a team that has been struggling somewhat, especially on the road and the Celtics have had a tendency to play down to the lower teams (See Lakers Game). Hopefully their energy and tough play against the Sixers wasn’t a one game thing and they play just as hard against the Pistons.