The Celtics continue their 3 game road trip with a stop in Detroit to take on the Pistons. This is the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 102-93 on February 4 at Detroit. The Pistons ended the Celtics 9 game win streak with a 112-111 win over the Celtics on February 16 in Boston. They will meet one more time in Boston on March 11.
The Celtics remain 6th in the East. They had won 9 straight before losing to these same Pistons in the final game before the All Star break. They then won their first game back from the break. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games and 15-15 on the road. They are 35-15 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 1.5 games ahead of 7th place Toronto and 3.5 games ahead of 8th place Brooklyn. They are 1 game behind 5th place Cleveland, 1.5 games behind 4th place Milwaukee and 2 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 4.5 games out of first place.
The Pistons are 14th in the East and the 2nd worst team in the league. They have won their last 2, however, beating the Celtics just before the break and the Cavaliers just after the break. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and 9-20 at home. They are 10-23 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are 1.5 games ahead of last place Orlando and 5.5 games behind 13th place Indiana.
The Celtics have won 6 straight road games and the last 5 of those road wins were wire to wire wins. In those last 5 road wins, the Celtics outscored their opponents by 148 points. That is the largest point differential in any 5 game road span in NBA history. The Celtics have won 6 of the last 8 games in Detroit. The Celtics are 208-112 all time against the Pistons and they are 88-64 when playing in Detroit.
The Celtics are playing in the second game of a 3 game road trip. They started out with a blow out win in Brooklyn and will complete the trip on Sunday in Indiana. They will then have a 3 game home stand where they host Atlanta, Memphis and Brooklyn. The Pistons are playing in their second straight home game They will start a 3 game road trip on Sunday at Charlotte. Both teams are playing in the first of back to back games.
The Celtics injury list is clear. Marcus Smart played in Brooklyn with a bone bruise and will likely play through it again in this game. Jaylen Brown fell on his wrist on his last play against Brooklyn and came up shaking it. He seemed to be ok on the bench and at this time he isn’t on the injury list. For Detroit, Frank Jackson is listed as doubtful with back spasms.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Malik Fitts (10 day)
Kelan Martin (10 day)
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Cade Cunningham
SF: Saddiq Bey
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Isaiah Stewart
Marvin Bagley III
Frank Jackson (back) doubtful
Al Horford vs Jerami Grant
Grant has been a bright spot for the Pistons this season. He is averaging 18.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 41.1% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. In the Celtics loss on February 16, Grant had 24 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. The Celtics need to stay with him on defense to keep him from having a big game.
Jayson Tatum vs Saddiq Bey
Bey is averaging 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He is shooting 38.6% from the field and 34.2% from beyond the arc. Bey is capable of big games. Against the Celtics in their last meeting, Bey had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. The Celtics need for Jayson Tatum to come up big for them on both ends of the court.
Jaylen Brown vs Cade Cunningham
Cunningham is averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 39.0% from the field and 32.2% from beyond the arc. Cunningham had 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in the Celtics loss to the Pistons before the break. The Celtics need to do a better job on defense in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense always will be key to winning. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a 104.8 defensive rating while the Pistons are 25th with a defensive rating of 112.9. The Celtics let their defense slip in the earlier loss to the Pistons. They allowed the Pistons to shoot 46.2% from the field and 53.3% from beyond the arc. The Pistons normally are 29th in the league with a 3 point% of 32.0. The Celtics clearly didn’t play much defense to allow them to shoot that well from the outside. The Celtics were missing Marcus Smart and Robert Williams in that game, two of the Celtics’ defensive leaders but even so, they should have been better on defense than that. They have to make defense a priority in this game if they don’t want a repeat of their last meeting.
Rebound - Rebounding is also always a key to winning. Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 46.6 rebounds per game (2nd) while the Pistons are averaging 42.9 rebounds (28th). The Celtics were out-rebounded 47-30 in their loss to the Pistons. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics give extra effort to beat the Pistons to rebounds. They clearly didn’t give that effort in that last game and must work harder on the boards in this one.
Take Care of the Ball - The Pistons are 5th in the league in forcing turnovers. They average 15.2 forced turnovers per game. They are 7th in the league with 17.1 points per game off turnovers. The Celtics normally turn the ball over an average of 14.1 times per game but at times they can get sloppy and turn the ball over way to much. They have to stay focused and make crisp and careful passes and they have to avoid sloppy ball handling that will give the Pistons a chance to get steals.
Bench Play - The Pistons are 4th in the league in bench scoring with 38.8 points per game from their reserves. The Celtics at times struggle when their starters sit, especially when Marcus Smart is off the court although Derrick White has given the bench a boost. The Celtics need to get good production from their reserves on both ends of the court, especially on defense. The Pistons have former Celtic Kelly Olynyk coming off their bench and, in the past, he has been motivated to have big games against the Celtics. He is averaging 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. In the Celtics loss to the Pistons, he had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals.
Road Game - The Celtics are playing in the 2nd of 3 straight games on the road. In recent games, the Celtics have had pretty good success on the road, winning their last 6 games on the road by at least 20 points and the last 5 were wire to wire wins. The Celtics need to continue to focus on the game and not allow the distractions of playing on the road affect their focus or their play.
Revenge - This Pistons team, the 2nd worst team in the league, beat the Celtics just before the break and ended their 9 game win streak. The Celtics need to remember that the loss was on them because they played little defense and they didn’t bring the effort that would have limited the Pistons’ rebounding and shooting percentages. If they do, they should come into this game looking to avenge that loss and not make those same mistakes in this game.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some call it tight and call every bit of contact while others allow more physical play. Some favor the home team while others call both sides evenly. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the refs are calling the game and not allow no calls and bad calls to affect their focus on playing the game.