After one game in Charlotte, the Celtics are back at home to host the Detroit Pistons for the 4th and final game 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. The Celtics also won 113-104 on February 26 at Detroit. The visiting team has won each of the games so far. Overall, the Celtics are 209-112 against the Pistons all time. They are 97-44 when the games are played in Boston.
The Celtics remain in 5th place in the East. They have won their last 4 games and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 23-11 at home and 29-16 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are just half a game behind 4th place Chicago, 1 game behind 3rd place Philadelphia, 2 games behind 2nd place Milwaukee and 4 games out of first place. They are 1 game ahead of 6th place Cleveland and 4 ahead of 7th place Toronto.
The Pistons are 14th in the East, with only Orlando below them. The Pistons had won 3 straight before losing their last game to the Bulls. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 7-26 on the road. They are 14-26 against other Eastern Conference opponents. The Pistons are 1.5 games ahead of Orlando and 1 game ahead of the Rockets, who are last in the West and in the league. The Pistons are 3.5 games behind 13th place Indiana.
The Celtics went 3-0 during a home stand before heading to Charlotte for a road win. They are back home for 2 games against Detroit and Dallas. They will then head out on a 4 game Western road trip through Golden State, Sacramento, Denver and Oklahoma City. Detroit is also coming off a 3 game road trip where they went 2-1. They will play the Clippers at home before going on a 3 game road trip.
The Celtics remain mostly healthy with just Aaron Nesmith out with a sprained ankle. The Pistons have 5 players out. Hamidou Diallo left Wednesday’s game with a finger injury and will miss this game. Killian Hayes missed Wednesday’s game and is out for this one. Frank Jackson has missed 7 of the last 8 games with back spasms and will be out for at least another week. Rodney McGruder left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury and will miss this game. Finally, Isaiah Stewart is out with a knee injury.
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)
Aaron Nesmith (ankle) out
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Cade Cunningham
SF: Saddiq Bey
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Marvin Bagley III
Frank Jackson (back) out
Hamidou Diallo (finger) out
Killian Hayes (thigh) out
Rodney McGruder (hamstring) out
Isaiah Stewart (knee) out
Al Horford vs Jerami Grant
Grant has been a bright spot for the Pistons this season. He is averaging 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He is shooting 42.0% from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc. He is capable of putting up big numbers and 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 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He is shooting 39.4% from the field and 34.6% 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. Jayson Tatum has been on a tear and the Celtics need him to come up big for them on both ends of the court in this one as well.
Jaylen Brown vs Cade Cunningham
Cunningham is averaging 16.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 40.4% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc. Cunningham had 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in the Celtics loss to the Pistons before the break. He has also had 5 straight games of 20 or more points per game. The Celtics need to play defense and slow him down in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be key to winning every game. The Celtics are tops in the league with a 105.6 defensive rating while the Pistons are 25th with a defensive rating of 113.1. The Pistons are 29th in the league, shooting 32.3% from beyond the arc. In the Celtics loss to the Pistons in February, the Celtics allowed the Pistons to shoot 53.3% on threes. The Celtics have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense and not allow the Pistons to have any chance at another shooting game like that one.
Rebound - Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 46.3 rebounds per game (4th) while the Pistons are averaging 43.1 rebounds (27th). The Pistons are 6th in offensive rebounding with 11.2 per game and they are 8th with 14.0 second chance points per game. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics need to 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 as well.
Bench Play - The Pistons are 6th in the league in bench scoring with 38.7 points per game from their reserves. They have 5 players out, however, and so it may limit their bench in this game. The Celtics at times struggle when their starters sit. 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 9.2 points per game and always plays well against the Celtics.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to take care of the ball because the Pistons are 8th in the league with 17.1 points off of turnovers per game. The Celtics 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 have to come into the game focused and keep that focus throughout the game.
Don’t Underestimate - The Celtics have been playing hard, especially on the defensive end. That has resulted in winning 15 of their last 17 games. It would be easy to let up against one of the worst teams in the league but that would be a mistake. The Pistons already beat them once in Boston when the Celtics let up on defense and allowed the Pistons to shoot way over their averages. 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 their record. The Pistons have beaten Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Boston and Cleveland already this season and those wins were likely because their opponents underestimated them.
Home Game Revenge - The Celtics are at home where the Pistons already beat them once this season. The Celtics need to remember that loss and come out ready to protect home court and avenge that loss. Hopefully the Garden will be loud and will be able to distract the young Pistons team and the Celtics will be ready to play their best 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.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are a 14-point favorite at home in their final game against the Pistons. Considering how the rest of the regular season series has gone, that’s a bit of a surprise. Despite the prior three games coming in Boston’s revival in the new year, they’ve all been slogs against the East’s second worst team.
Bu don’t underestimate Detroit’s 18-48 record. They’re big, they play hard, Cade Cunningham is the real deal, and they’ve stepped up against conference opponents recently. Since the All-Star break, they’ve beat the Cavaliers, Hornets, Raptors, and Hawks and were in competitive games against the Celtics and Bulls. However, the Pistons will be without some key role players in Stewart, Diallo, and Hayes. That’s a decent chunk of size and athleticism out of their rotation.
Tonight’s game is also set up to be a trap game, with the 40-26 Dallas Mavericks coming to town on Sunday on Kevin Garnett’s number retirement ceremony, too. Detroit will look to muck up the game and make it ugly. They’re one of the league’s best offensive rebounding teams and they foul at a high rate. However, the Celtics were in some big games last week and have tested their mettle against some physical teams. Tatum is on a ridiculous hot streak and Boston has brought the nasty on the defensive end all year.
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