Just one night after taking the Milwaukee Bucks to overtime while absent four of their starters, the Boston Celtics returned to the court a little bit healthier. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Al Horford returned to the lineup, and the Celtics entered the All-Star break with a win, downing the Detroit Pistons 127-109.
Tatum entered the All-Star Break on a strong note, pacing the team with a 38-9-7 stat line (six made threes). Supporting him was a hyper-efficient performance from Brogdon, who added 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting. For the Pistons, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting and Isaiah Stewart knocked in four three-pointers, but a strong third quarter effort wasn’t enough to put an upset into play.
In the first half, the difference between these teams was fairly straightforward: one team made their threes, one team didn’t. While the Pistons scuffled from range, shooting just 5-of-16, the Celtics couldn’t miss. As a team, they connected on 50% of their three-point attempts (12-of-24), including four from Brogdon, who led the team with 18 points at the break. They jumped on Detroit early and held down the accelerator for the entire half, leading 66-51 at the halftime break.
Smart made his return to the Boston lineup after an 11-game absence with a bone bruise in his ankle, and he made his presence known in the only way he knows how. He was everywhere on both ends of the court, orchestrating the Celtics’ offense while wrecking Detroit’s. For the game, he posted an absolutely ludicrous — and extremely Marcus Smart-like — stat line of nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals.
In keeping with tradition, as play resumed, the Pistons inched themselves back into competitiveness. After a couple quick Celtics baskets to open the third quarter, Detroit went on a 15-6 run to cut the Boston lead back down to 10 points and prompt a timeout from Joe Mazzulla. Despite the stellar play of Tatum, the Pistons continued to gain ground, and some frustration seemed to seep into the Celtics’ game. A loose ball foul on Luke Kornet led to free throws for the Pistons that cut the Boston lead to five with under three minutes remaining in the third.
Tatum would not be denied, however. He scored 24 points in the third quarter, and his three-point tirade quickly reestablished the Celtics’ control on the game. The Celtics led 97-89 at the end of the third quarter, and restored their lead to double figures as play resumed in the fourth. The Pistons wouldn’t draw within single-digits again, and the Celtics entered the break with a record of 42-17.
Next up, the Celtics will enjoy a mini-vacation, with everyone (Tatum notwithstanding) taking a week off during the NBA’s All-Star Break. They’ll be back on February 23 in Indiana for a 7 PM matchup with the Pacers on NBC Sports Boston.