Winners of two consecutive games after a fruitful mini-road trip against the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies, the Boston Celtics returned home to TD Garden to face down an unlikely sort of boogeyman. Last season set the precedent that the Detroit Pistons were going to be a bigger challenge to the Celtics than the two teams’ records might suggest. Despite Detroit finishing just 1-3 against Boston in the season series, none of their four matchups could be described as a blowout, with the largest margin of victory being just 11 in their final matchup on March 11. These Pistons had their A-game against the Celtics all season long.
While the Pistons brought similar fight on Wednesday night, the ultimate result featured far less drama. The Celtics overcame a chippy Detroit effort and an injury to Malcolm Brogdon to glide to a 128-112 win over the Pistons.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were their customarily excellent selves, with the former shrugging off a slow first half to finish with 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting and the latter providing a steady 30 points on 11-of-19. Additionally, Sam Hauser continued his recent hot streak with 24 points (six made threes), while Marcus Smart added his third consecutive game with double-digit assists (11). It was more than enough to overcome a hot night from Detroit rookie Jaden Ivey (19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists), 17 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, and a surprise 16-point performance from youngster Killian Hayes to come away with the win.
The Celtics switched up their starting lineup (sans-Robert Williams III) against Memphis, and they continued that strategy tonight, with Grant Williams starting in place of Derrick White. The larger lineup proved to be stout on both ends of the court from the opening tip. They kicked off the game on a 12-4 run, splashing a trio of early threes on the offensive end while holding the Pistons to just 1-of-13 shooting from the field on the defensive in the early going.
The larger lineup didn’t pay off on the glass, however. The Pistons cashed in on seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter, allowing them to over come their brutal scoring performance. Despite shooting nearly twice as well as Detroit from the field, percentage-wise, the Pistons’ second (sometimes third) chance points allowed them to stay within arm’s reach. The Celtics led by eight entering the second quarter, 29-21.
The trend of strong Pistons performances against the Celtics has clearly continued into the new season, as the young Pistons fought their way back from their sluggish first quarter, scoring-wise, to draw within four points early in the second. They ran into a snag, however — a new variable that wasn’t in the equation last season — Sam Hauser. Boston’s blazing hot reserve wing connected on four shots — including two threes — en route to a 10-point second quarter, and the surge helped the Celtics build a 14-point lead at the half, 63-49.
Coming out of the halftime break, news came down that Brogdon, who had gone into the locker room late in the second quarter with an injury, would miss the remainder of the game with reported hamstring tightness. Further complicating the situation, Williams found his way into foul trouble as the third quarter progressed, picking up his fourth foul just about halfway through the frame. The Boston rotation stretched thin rather quickly.
Despite the absences, however, the Celtics managed to keep ahold of the reins as the second half got started. Tatum shrugged off a slow start to hit four threes and score 16 in the third quarter, and Hauser added a couple more impactful triples of his own, and the Pistons couldn’t muster quite enough momentum to gain any ground. Entering the final quarter, the Boston lead ticked ahead to 16, 95-79.
The fourth quarter brought little in the way of surprises. The two teams traded buckets just about evenly, preserving a comfortable Boston lead, and a flagrant foul from Isaiah Livers on a Tatum three-point attempt seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tatum converted on all three of his free throw attempts, and Horford scored a put-back layup on the ensuing possession to put the game fully in Boston’s pocket.
Next up, the Celtics will play host to their second Western Conference opponent of the season, as the Denver Nuggets come to town for a Friday night matchup at 7 PM EST on NBA TV.