The Celtics 108-102 loss to the Pistons on Friday night was one of those mid-February slogs that every team has to mush through in the dreary winter of an NBA regular season. For Boston, it was the back end of a back-to-back after a grueling west coast road trip. They were down Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Romeo Langford.
Detroit came into TD Garden winners of just one of their twelve road games all year, but to call it a trap game wouldn’t be fair. After the two teams split a two-game series in Detroit, the Celtics knew what kind of fight they’d be getting from a Pistons team that has beaten some of the upper echelon contenders including the Lakers, Suns, Heat, 76ers, and Nets.
“I want to give Detroit credit. They’re a hard matchup for us. They’re big and physical. All three games, we’ve struggled in big time,” Brad Stevens said. “There’s things we could have done better, but I don’t want to short change Detroit because obviously, they’ve given a lot of teams fits. They are a tough matchup for us.”
They aren’t exactly the Bad Boys of the 80’s, but they’re a big veteran team with a lot of guys looking to either prove themselves in the league or take advantage of a second, third, or fourth chance to stay in it.
Frankly, it’s an attitude that this Celtics team could adopt themselves.
“There’s a lot of unknown, because we’re inconsistent. I think if we were more consistent as a team, there would be a lot more known. I think we’re capable, but there’s a big difference between being consistency and capable in this league. Consistent wins out at the end of the day and hass a chance to play for things and we’re not there yet,” Stevens said after his team fell to 13-12 on the season.
“I thought we had moments where we had great defensive possessions. The thing that did not carry over from last night was the ball movement.”
After a night where the Celtics racked up thirty assists, they only mustered a season-low 15 against Detroit. It was a joyless game that included losing Semi Ojeleye in the third quarter to a knee injury after he collided into Blake Griffin on a drive and Brown hitting the floor as many times as he had assists against Toronto (10).
“I don’t know how many times I hit the floor today, but I felt like, I might as well have brought a mop to mop the floor. Detroit is a physical team, but at this point, I think it’s getting ridiculous. I don’t understand that.” Brown said.
But as physical as the Pistons were and as depleted as the Celtics are twenty-five games into the season, this was a game that good teams find a way to win. Brown played over 36 minutes. Jayson Tatum logged 40-plus on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s mileage you can’t roll back especially in this compressed season. For Brown and Tatum, the schedule may not be as difficult for the 24 and 22-year-old, but they also have the extra responsibility of now being the cornerstones of the franchise. “I’ve said it all year. We’ve asked a lot of those guys. There’s a large burden, a large load to carry,” Stevens said.
Under normal circumstances, young players can crumble under that pressure and while the the Celtics seemed physically bullied and maybe a little mentally drained after the loss, they seem to be living that Stevens mantra of not getting too high or too low.
“It’s a challenge that I accept and I’m learning and growing on the fly, trying to find ways to let the game come to me and also make my teammates better. Also, inspiring our guys to fight every single night,” Brown said. “It’s definitely a challenge even in myself. So we’ve just got to get better. We’ve just got to continue to grow and get better.”