Jayson Tatum set the tone early in Boston’s 41st win, bringing bully ball to the Pistons’ front door.
En route to their fifth straight win, the Celtics relied heavily on interior looks to defeat a Pistons team that gave them problems in their first three matchups. From the opening tip, Boston attacked the Pistons’ young big men, who were missing their best rim protector in Isaiah Stewart.
Tatum kicked off the interior scoring, ditching the long jumpers to start and focusing on attacking the paint. Specifically, the Celtics aimed their crosshairs at Marvin Bagley to start. Bagley was filling in for Stewart in the starting five. Detroit was missing six players.
Immediately, Al Horford gets the former No. 2 overall pick in the post and wastes no time hitting a hook shot.
Minutes later, Jayson Tatum got the switch he wanted from Cade Cunningham to Bagley, and used that signature blend of speed and smoothness to freeze Bagley.
In the first quarter, the Celtics didn’t make a single shot outside of the paint. They scored 32 points, and the shot chart shows where the most effective offense came.
Boston’s 10 steals helped them continue to attack the paint as the game wore on. Marcus Smart was the catalyst, recording five steals. Smart also shot 6-7 from the free throw line, as the Celtics as a team shot 80% on their 30 attempts.
As the game continued, the Celtics kept going at the Pistons’ big men. In this example, Tatum puts Bagley in a high pick-and-roll, then hits him with a shot fake before getting the ball in deep to Robert Williams. Williams, with Jerami Grant on him, converts the easy layup.
Tatum opened the game with interior scoring, but Jaylen Brown’s ability to get inside helped the Celtics in the middle quarters. Brown converted three shots within five feet to close out the second, then opened the third with another layup.
Once again facing Bagley in a one-on-one, this time Brown wastes no time putting on the burners and blowing by Bagley.
Boston used the third quarter to take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, where it shut down the Pistons for the 11-point win. The Celtics only took six shots outside of the paint in the third quarter, emblematic of the game plan that was established in the first.
The Pistons played very well, especially Cunningham. Despite Boston shooting 6-32 from deep – a paltry 19% – the Celtics’ interior scoring kept the team within reach, allowing their defense to shut down the young Detroit offense and secure their fifth straight win.
The ability to grind out a win with interior scoring will serve Boston well as the playoffs approach and every game affects Eastern Conference seeding.