The Celtics look for their first 4 game win streak as they visit the Detroit Pistons. This is the first of 4 games this season. They will meet once again in Detroit on February 26 and they will meet twice more in Boston on February 16 and again on March 11. The Pistons won the series 2-1 last season. The Celtics are 207-111 all time against the Pistons and 87-64 when playing in Detroit.
The Celtics are playing in the first game of a 3 game road trip. They will continue the trip on Sunday in Orlando and then close the trip out on Tuesday in Brooklyn before returning home for 2 games. The Pistons are playing in the final game of a 4 game home stand. They will play 2 games on the road starting Sunday at Minnesota. This is the second game of back to back games for the Pistons. They are 3-5 when playing in the second of back to back games.
The Celtics are still 9th in the East after winning their last 3 games, but the standings are tightening up. They are 10-15 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 19-14 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are just 1/2 a game behind both 7th place Toronto and 8th place Charlotte. They are 2 games behind 6th place Brooklyn and only 4 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 2 games ahead of 10th place Atlanta.
The Pistons are 14th in the East, ahead of only Orlando, who is the Celtics next opponent. They are 1 game ahead of Orlando and 6 games behind 13th place Indiana. They have the 2nd best odds in the draft at this point and will likely be tanking but the Celtics can’t expect the Pistons to just lose. They have to beat them. The Pistons have lost their last 2 games. They are 8-17 at home and 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 8-20 against other Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics have just Bol Bol (foot) and PJ Dozier (knee) on the injury list at this time. However, they always seem to have late additions on game day for some reason. The Pistons have 4 players who missed Thursday’s game against the Timberwolves and who are questionable for this game. Josh Jackson has missed 3 games and is out for this game with back spasms. Cade Cunningham left Tuesday’s game with a hip pointer and missed Thursday’s game. He will be out for this game also. I expect Rodney McGruder to start in his place as he did on Thursday. Isaiah Livers hasn’t played since December 21 with a foot injury and is also likely out for this game. Jamorko Pickett is questionable with a toe sprain.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Bol Bol (foot) out
PJ Dozier (knee) out
Probable Pistons Starter
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Rodney McGruder
SF: Saddiq Bey
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Isaiah Stewart
Cade Cunningham (hip) oout
Josh Jackson (back) out
Jamorko Pickett (toe) questionable
Isaiah Livers (foot) out
Al Horford vs Jerami Grant
Grant has been a bright spot for the Pistons this season. He is averaging 20.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 20.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. 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 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He is shooting 39.5% from the field and 35.9% from beyond the arc. Bey had 21 points on Thursday night and is capable of big games. Jayson Tatum is coming off a poor shooting game against the Hornets and hopefully he will bounce back in this game after being named an All Star for the third time.
Grant Williams vs Kelly Olynyk
Former Celtic Kelly Olynyk is averaging 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc. Like other former Celtics, he always seems to play the best against them.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense always will be key to winning. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a 106.1 defensive rating while the Pistons are 24th with a defensive rating of 112.0. The Celtics are coming off a game against the Hornets that they won with defense down the stretch. They have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense regardless of the Pistons’ record.
Rebound - Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 46.2 rebounds per game (4th) while the Pistons are averaging 42.3 rebounds (29th). Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics give extra effort to beat the Pistons to rebounds. When they show extra effort on the boards, it often shows up in other areas of the game.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to take care of the ball because the Pistons are 7th in the league with 17.6 points off of turnovers per game. The Celtics tend to lose focus and turn the ball over and that often gets them in trouble. They turned the ball over 18 times against the Hornets and that kept the Hornets close. They have to focus on making crisp passes and on careful ball handling. They also have to focus on taking good shots and making them. The Celtics shot just 66% from the line against the Heat and missing free throws can be the result of a lack of focus. The Celtics have to come into the game focused and keep that focus throughout the game.
Bench Play - The Pistons are 3rd in the league in bench scoring with 38.7 points per game from their reserves. The Celtics at times struggle when their starters sit, especially when Marcus Smart is off the court. 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 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc.
Don’t Underestimate - At times the Celtics have had the problem of underestimating their opponents. They can’t come in to this game expecting to get a win without playing their best. They have lost games that they should have won by not taking their opponents seriously. They have to play like the Pistons are the best team in the league because on any given night if you underestimate a team, they will beat you, no matter your records.
On the Road and Fatigue - The Celtics are back on the road and playing on the road can cause some hardships and problems for the visiting team. The Celtics need to stay focused and shake off the inconveniences of travel and staying in a hotel and playing in front of a hostile crowd to play their best. The Celtics are just 10-15 on the road and they have to focus on playing better when they are away from the Garden. Sometimes the travel can tire a team out as well. The Pistons may be tired as they are playing on the second night of back to back games. If the Celtics run, they may be able to tip the scales in their direction down the stretch.
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.