The lone blemish on the Boston Celtics’ recent run of success came in their final game before the All-Star Break, a 112-111 loss to the 14th seeded Detroit Pistons on their home floor. Just over a week later, the opportunity for revenge arrived, as they took the court in Detroit early Saturday afternoon for the teams’ third matchup. Once again, they got all they could handle from the young Pistons, but this time they reversed the result. The Celtics made the plays they needed to down the stretch, and walked away with a 113-104 victory.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way with 53 combined points, but it was the bench that took them over the top. The Celtics’ reserves combined for 35 points on the afternoon, led by a massive 19 points (16 in the second half) from Payton Pritchard in what was very likely his best game of the season. Detroit’s rookie phenom, Cade Cunningham, scored 25 points and trade deadline acquisition Marvin Bagley added 14 before departing the game with an injury in the fourth quarter.
After not trailing a single time across their previous five consecutive road games, the early start seemed to have the Celtics a little sluggish as play began, and the streak concluded as the Pistons built a 12-6 lead in the opening minutes. Detroit’s offense seemed to catch the Boston defense a bit off guard, finding a groove in the midrange and connecting on 64% of their shots in the first quarter. After the slow start, though, the Celtics stayed in lock-step with the Pistons the remainder of the quarter, and a pair of late threes put them ahead 30-26 heading into the second.
It was the all-around brilliance from Tatum that led the way for the Celtics in the first half. He quickly put himself on triple-double watch, dishing five assists in the first quarter and leading the team in scoring en route to 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists at the halftime break. On the other end, Cunningham and the resurgent Bagley provided the spark for Detroit, combining for 17 points in the half.
The second quarter dragged heavily due to multiple extended video reviews. Game officials reviewed a clear path call, contact on a ref made by Hamidou Diallo (who was ejected) and a scrap in the paint between Marcus Smart and Isaiah Stewart in the span of just a few minutes. In between the reviews, when basketball was allowed to happen, the game looked much like it did the week before, with the Pistons refusing to let Boston gain an inch of ground. The Celtics entered the halftime break leading by just two points, 56-54.
After a 3-of-11 first half, Brown found some much-needed momentum in the early minutes of the second half, scoring a pair of quick buckets and making a clean 2-for-2 trip to the free throw line. While he surged, the Celtics’ three-point shooting lapsed (6-of-19 through three quarters) and they just couldn’t string together consistent stops on the defensive end of the floor. The Pistons’ offense got the the rim seemingly at will, coming away with open looks or free throws on nearly every possession. Detroit won the quarter by six, and the Celtics entered the final frame trailing 82-78.
Boston’s bench helped right the ship as play resumed. Grant Williams opened the fourth quarter with an exclamation point, spinning his way to the rim for an and-one layup before salvaging a broken play by getting to the free throw line on the ensuing possession. A few possessions later, Payton Pritchard connected on a three-pointer and a quick layup to give himself 14 points and counting on the afternoon and put the Celtics ahead by four with just under seven minutes left to play.
Pritchard was the spark plug behind a 15-2 Celtics run to put them fully in the driver’s seat as the game approached crunch time. The 6-foot-1 guard snagged an offensive rebound off his own missed layup and found Tatum behind the arc, who splashed the triple to put Boston ahead 100-90 with just over five minutes to play. Detroit managed to pull back within six points in the final minutes, but it was too little, too late, and the Celtics secured the win.
Next up, the Celtics take the court in Indiana in a little over 24 hours, battling the Pacers at 4 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics victory over Detroit, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.