The Celtics once again play the Pistons in Detroit just 2 days after they gave the Pistons their first win of the season. The Celtics should have blown out the Pistons but they came in with little energy and fell behind by 21 points in the first half. They made a run and had a lead with 4:15 left in the 4th quarter. They then failed to score again, allowing the Pistons to take the win.
The Pistons and Celtics were 1-1 last season, with both games in Boston. The Celtics won the series 1-3 in the 2018-19 season. The Pistons haven’t won the series with the Celtics since the 2013-14 season. The Celtics have won 5 of the last 8 games in Detroit. They are scheduled to play one more game in Boston on February 14.
There is no shortage of suggestions as to why the Celtics came out so flat. The most prevalent one is that they were playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights and were tired. I think they underestimated the winless Pistons without Blake Griffin, thinking they could just coast through the game and get the win.
By the time they realized that the Pistons weren’t going to just lie down, they were down 21 points and had to claw their way back. After having to play twice as hard to catch up and then take a small lead, their legs were tired from the 3 games in 4 nights and just couldn’t close the game out.
The Celtics will likely start the same lineup, even though it has been very inconsistent. Kemba Walker, Romeo Langford, and Javonte Green are all still expected to be out. Blake Griffin is questionable and will likely miss this game with a concussion and Frank Jackson is also expected to miss the game for undisclosed reasons. If Griffin is out, Saddiq Bey will likely start once again.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Javonte Green (covid 19 protocols) day to day
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Killian Hayes
SG: Josh Jackson
SF: Saddiq Bey
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Mason Plumlee
Blake Griffin (concussion) questionable
Frank Jackson (NWT) out
Daniel Theis vs Jerami Grant
Grant led the Pistons with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal in Friday’s game. He is averaging 23.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. The Celtics need to defend him better and limit his touches.
Jayson Tatum vs Saddiq Bey
With Blake Griffin out on Friday, rookie Saddiq Bey got the start. Griffin is questionable for this game and Bey should once again start in his place. In Friday’s game, Bey finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. He shot 5-8 from beyond the arc. Whether it is Bey or Griffin, the Celtics need to work harder on defense to slow them down.
Tristan Thompson vs Mason Plumlee
Plumlee pulled down 17 rebounds in Friday’s game. It seemed like he got to every crucial rebound. Along with the 17 rebounds, he had 8 points, 2 steals and a block. The Celtics need to do a better job of boxing out and keeping him off the boards in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Once again, I will put defense as the most important key to winning. Last season, the Celtics were a top 4 defensive team. So far this season, we haven’t seen that defense. The Celtics simply must get back to playing tough team and individual defense if they hope to contend this season.
Rebound - On Friday, it seemed as though every big rebound went to the Pistons and to Mason Plumlee in particular. Much of rebounding is focus, effort and desire. The Celtics showed none of those things on Friday. The Pistons had 14 second chance points to just 4 for the Celtics. The Celtics have to put out more effort and focus on boxing out and beating the Pistons to the rebounds.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics came out with very little effort or focus to begin the game on Friday. In the first quarter, they scored just 12 points, but turned the ball over 8 times. They allowed the Pistons to score at will and were a step slow on every possession.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics must move the ball. Too often this season they have lapsed into hero ball and that is never a good thing. The Celtics need to move the ball and play as a team, finding the best shot on every possession. But they have to handle the ball carefully. The Pistons scored 22 points off of 19 Celtics turnovers, most of them unforced.
Run, Run, Run - The Celtics jogged up the court for the most part on Friday, allowing the Pistons to get set up before they could get into their offensive sets. They have to run and beat the Pistons to their spots both on offense and on defense. Walking the ball up the court always gives the opponent an advantage.
Revenge Factor - The Celtics were embarrassed on Friday by a team they should have beaten. They should be looking to avenge that loss and get the team back on track with a strong game in this one.
Bench Play - Outside of Tatum, Brown and Smart, the rest of the team only scored 27 points. The Celtics need to get more contributions from their reserves and other two starters, or those 3 players are going to burn out. Someone needs to step up on a consistent basis if the Celtics hope to contend.
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Some officials call it tight and others let them play. Some are good and others are not so good. In every game there will be calls that frustrate players. Some officials can take the momentum out of a game. The Celtics have to adjust their play to the way the referees are calling the game.