The Celtics return home to host the Detroit Pistons for the 4th and final meeting between them. The Celtics won in Boston 128-112 on November 9. They won in Detroit 117-108 on November 12 and again in Detroit 111-99 on February 6. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season, with their only loss coming in Boston. The Celtics are 249-140 overall all time against the Pistons and they are 120-57 all time in games played in Boston.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They played the first game in Milwaukee against the Bucks and had to travel back home after the game. The Celtics are 8-1 on the second night of back to back games and they are 6-1 when the games are on the road. Their only loss coming in Miami to the Heat after playing the night before against the Magic in Orlando.
The Celtics played 3 at home before traveling to Milwaukee for the game on Tuesday and then back home for the game against the Pistons. The Pistons are playing in the second straight game on the road. They last played in Toronto on Sunday so they should be rested. The Celtics played in Milwaukee on Tuesday and was shorthanded in that game. This is the last game for both teams before the All Star break.
The Celtics remain 1st in the league, half a game ahead of the 2nd place Bucks after their win over the Celtics on Tuesday night. They are 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 4 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. They are 1 game ahead of the Nuggets for the best record in the league. They are 23-7 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 24-12 against Eastern Conference opponents. They had won 4 straight before their loss on Tuesday to the Bucks.
The Pistons are on the opposite end of the standings. They are 15th in the East, half a game behind 14th place Charlotte and 9 behind 13th place Orlando. They are 1.5 games ahead of Houston and half a game ahead of San Antonio for the worst record in the league. They are 7-22 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 6-26 against Eastern Conference opponents and lost their last game.
Marcus Smart, who has been sidelined since Jan. 23 with a right ankle sprain is targeting this game for his return. Jaylen Brown, who is still recovering from a facial fracture will miss the game. I’m guessing that Robert Williams will be out since he played on Tuesday in Milwaukee. Jayson Tatum missed Tuesday’s game and is expected to play in this game. Derrick White is probable after having ear pain after the Bucks game. Mike Muscala is out for ankle injury management.
For the Pistons, James Wiseman was just traded from the Warriors and after a hold up on the trade due to Gary Payton II not passing his physical, Wiseman was expected to practice on Monday and should be available to play in this game. Marvin Bagley III is close to return after hand surgery in January but remains out for this game. Nerlens Noel is out due to personal reasons. Cade Cunningham is out for the season due to a leg injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Derrick White (ear pain) probable
Jaylen Brown (face) out
Mike Muscala (ankle) out
Robert Williams (ankle) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Killian Hayes
SG: Jaden Ivey
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Isaiah Stewart
C: Jalen Duren
2 Way Players
Marvin Bagley III (hand) out
Cade Cunningham (leg) out
Nerlens Noel (personal) out
James Wiseman (trade) probable
Sam Hauser vs Bojan Bogdanovic
At this point, I’m just guessing that Hauser will start here. Bogdanovic is averaging 21.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He is shooting 48.7% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, Bogdanovic is averaging 21.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He shot 48.7% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. The Celtics especially have to stick with Bogdanovic on the perimeter where he is the Pistons best 3 point shooter.
Derrick White vs Jaden Ivey
Ivey is averaging 15.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He shooting 41.8% from the field and 33.5% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season he averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. He shot 48.7% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Again, depending on who plays and who is out, White may or may not start at shooting guard.
Grant Williams vs Isaiah Stewart
Once again I’m just guessing that Grant will play and start at the four. Stewart is averaging 11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is shooting 44.1% from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 10.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists and shot 38.5% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be key to winning every game. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a 110.5 defensive rating while the Pistons are 29th with a defensive rating of 117.7. The Pistons are 25th in the league, averaging 112.3 points per game. The Celtics have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense and not underestimate the Pistons, who have a lot of young and hungry players and if the Celtics don’t take them seriously, they can surprise them.
Rebound - Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 45.1 rebounds per game (6th) while the Pistons are averaging 42.3 rebounds (21st). The Pistons are 8th with 15.1.0 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.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to take care of the ball and 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 have to come into the game focused and keep that focus throughout the game. Their offense has been very good, but they still lapse into iso ball from time to time and they need to avoid that and keep the ball moving.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics can’t come into the game expecting an easy game and to be able to take it easy on both ends of the court because the Pistons are at the bottom of the league. They have to come in and be aggressive on defense, on taking the ball to the basket, on diving for loose balls, on rebounding and on playing as a team. If they allow the Pistons to play harder than them, especially playing short handed, they could be surprised by a loss.
Short Handed Back to Back - The Celtics are back at home and they need come out ready to protect home court. Young teams often struggle on the road and hopefully the Garden will be loud and will be able to distract the young Pistons team who also have to face the distractions of travel. The Celtics remain short handed and are playing back to back and so every player has to step up their game, even against the team at the bottom of the East.
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 the no calls and bad calls to affect their focus on playing the game.