The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons for the 3rd game between them this season. They played two games in Detroit earlier this season, with the Celtics losing the first game on New Year’s Day 96-93 and winning 122-120 two days later on January 3. Both games were way too close for the talent differential between the teams.
The Celtics are 4th in the East, 4 games behind the first place 76ers. The Celtics are 6-3 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are coming off a win over the Raptors. The Pistons are last in the East. They are 1-12 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are coming off a loss in their last game.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics played at home on Thursday, getting a big win over the Raptors. The Pistons at home on Thursday night where they lost to the Pacers and had to travel overnight. The Celtics are 3-1 on the second night of back to back games.
Earlier in the season, Brad Stevens said that Kemba would likely sit on the second of back to back games. He was listed as out on the 1:30 injury list. Brad started Carsen Edwards after he had a big game out west and so I’m taking a wild guess that Brad will start Payton Pritchard at the point if Kemba does sit.
I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown will play back to back as he is dealing with tendonitis in his knee. I haven’t heard that he isn’t playing as yet and so have included him in the starting lineup. Robert Williams missed Thursday’s game with hip soreness. He had missed a lot of time earlier due to a hip injury and so they may just be playing it safe. He is questionable for this game.
Mason Plumlee was a game time scratch for their game on Thursday night with elbow soreness. He is out for this game as well. Isaiah Stewart started in his place on Thursday and will likely start again in this game. Frank Jackson (illness), Jahlil Okafor (knee), Killian Hayes (hip), and Sekou Doumbouya (concussion) are all out.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Payton Pritchard
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Kemba Walker (knee) rest
Robert Williams (hip) questionable
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Delon Wright
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Jerami Grant
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Isaiah Stewart
Dennis Smith, Jr
Mason Plumlee (elbow) out
Frank Jackson (Illness) out
Jahlil Okafor (knee) out
Killian Hayes (hip) out
Sekou Doumbouya (concussion) out
Josh Jackson (hip) probable
Jayson Tatum vs Jerami Grant
Grant has been playing very well for the Pistons this season. He is averaging 24.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He is also a good defender and may make it tough on Jayson Tatum to score. He is by far their best player and if the Celtics can limit him, they have a good chance to get a win.
Daniel Theis vs Blake Griffin
Griffin is averaging 12.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He is shooting 36% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. He is far from the high flying player that won the dunk contests when he was on the Clippers, but the Celtics still need to pay attention to him on the defensive end. It would also be nice if Daniel Theis can continue his efficient shooting from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Once again, I will put defense as the most important key to winning. We have seen the Celtics play good defense in spurts but we have also see them allow their opponents to score at will. They are 16th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.8. The Pistons are 21st with a defensive rating of 112.0. The Celtics simply must get back to playing tough team and individual defense if they hope to contend this season.
Rebound - The Celtics need to have the ball in order to score and the best way to get extra possessions is the crash the boards. Much of rebounding is focus, effort and desire. The Celtics have to put out more effort and focus on boxing out and beating the Pistons to the rebounds. When they put out the extra effort on the boards, it often translates to the other parts of their game as well.
Move the Ball - For the most part of this season, the Celtics have played way too much hero ball and we see a lot of dribbling and not a lot of passing. They are 28th in the league with 22.3 assists per game. On Thursday night against the Raptors, the Celtics tallied 30 assists with both Brown and Tatum passing the ball rather than dribbling into double teams and it resulted in a big win. They absolutely need to do more of that.
Be Aggressive for 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in going to the basket, diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds, defending and just all around be the team that plays harder. They lost to the Pistons once already and almost lost a second time because they allowed them to play harder. They have to play hard for 48 minutes and not let up.
Underestimation - The Celtics can’t come in and expect to play less than their best because the Pistons are last in the East. The Pistons beat the Celtics once already and almost beat them a second time and much of that was because the Celtics underestimated them and didn’t come out and play their best. They should not make that mistake again.
Back to Back - Both teams are playing in back to back games. Both games are at home for both games while the Pistons had to travel. Which team will bring the focus and extra energy to get the win?
Officiating - Officiating can always be 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 and not let bad calls or no calls take away their focus.