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Celtics defense lags behind in loss to Pistons

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Celtics defensive breakdowns: A study on poor defense guarding cuts, layups and transition.

Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

It can be a scary proposition for any NBA team to see its opponent settle in and get comfortable offensively.

And the Detroit Pistons couldn't have looked more comfortable running their offense on the TD Garden parquet Wednesday night against a porous Boston Celtics defense.

For the first time since 2006, the Celtics allowed an opponent to shoot over 60 percent from the field — Detroit finished shooting 60.3 percent in the 116-103 win — and if that wasn’t enough, the Pistons made 76.1 percent of their attempts from inside the arc, which is the highest mark given up in Celtics franchise history, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com.

The continuous baskets at the rim that Boston allowed is what drew the ire of Celtics coach Brad Stevens as his team has now lost four of its last six games.

“The baskets you can never give away are the cuts, layups and the transition where they just get behind you or just drive to the rim. You always start there,” Stevens said. “I’m guessing they had 20 points on those, maybe more. Right there, you’re probably getting beat in most NBA games if you give up that easy of plays.”

Rookie Sekou Doumbouya’s career-high 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting could compose a highlight-reel of all the transgressions the Celtics made on the defensive end. The most maddening are the points Doumbouya got in transition, where he simply outhustled multiple Celtics for an easy bucket. In the second clip, Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis do a good job of challenging Tim Frazier’s layup, but Gordon Hayward lackadaisically gets back on defense and never accounts for the charging Doumbouya, who cleans up the miss.

It’s also easy for someone who is playing in just their 15th NBA game to have a career performance when they are getting open shots like this.

The Celtics didn’t have much of an answer for Derrick Rose, who looked like his vintage self as he tore apart Boston’s defense en route to an 11-of-13 showing from the floor for 22 points. The C’s didn’t give Rose many open looks, but with Rose tapping into what made him a superstar and the 2011 NBA MVP, he didn’t need much space to operate as he showed against one of the best on-ball defenders in the league in Marcus Smart.

Derrick Rose was tremendous. I thought he was the best player on the court as far as he controlled the game and did a really good job. He’s had a really good year,” Stevens said. “(Andre) Drummond hurt us a little bit in the paint and the shooters all were really comfortable. I hand it to them.”

Detroit’s off-the-charts shooting percentage was also made possible by the Pistons taking advantage of pick-and-roll situations. The Celtics were often slow to rotate and didn’t communicate nearly well enough to stop the Pistons from getting whatever they wanted offensively. In the clip below, Detroit doesn’t score immediately out of the pick-and-roll, but it catches Theis out of position and allows Andre Drummond to situate rather effortlessly on the low block before finishing through contact.

“Our pick-and-roll defense wasn’t very good,” Stevens said.

This happened routinely for the Pistons. Easy buckets in the paint. Points getting out in transition. Wide-open 3-pointers. They did what they wanted, when they wanted to and without much pushback as the Celtics showed little energy and interest in defending until it was too late.

“We lost the game on our transition defense and protecting the paint and then getting out to shooters,” Stevens said.

And Stevens harped upon it again one more time for good measure.

“Again, I go back to the transition, the paint, the cuts, we got to get way better or we’ve got to handle that way better on every given night,” Stevens said. “That’s not something you’re going to spend a whole lot of time on in walkthroughs and practice right now. It’s game 40 or whatever. Gotta’ run it back.”