The Celtics travel to Detroit to face the Pistons for the third of 4 games between them this season. These two teams faced off in Boston on November 9 and the Celtics came away with a 128-112 win. They then met in Detroit 3 days later and the Celtics again won 117-108. They will meet for a 4th and final time in Boston on February 15.
The Celtics are first in the East, but their lead over the 2nd place Bucks has shrunk to just one game. They are 2.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 4.5 game ahead of the Kyrie Irving-less Nets. They are 17-9 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 21-11 against Eastern Conference opponents. They are coming off a loss in their last game.
The Pistons are 15th in the East. They are 23.5 games behind the first place Celtics. They are half a game behind 14th place Charlotte and 8 games behind 13th place Orlando. They are half a game ahead of the Rockets in the all important race for lottery balls. The Pistons are 7-20 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 6-23 against Eastern Conference teams. They are coming off a loss in their last game.
The Pistons are playing in the 4th game of a 4 game home stand. One of those games was postponed due to weather and they are 1-1 in the other 2, beating Charlotte and losing to Phoenix. The Celtics just completed a 2-2 home stand. They have just this one game on the road before playing 3 more games at home against Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Memphis.
Marcus Smart has yet to resume any on-court work and is expected to miss this game. Danilo Gallinari remains out with the torn ACL. Luke Kornet left Friday’s game with a sprained ankle and is listed as out for this game. Jaylen Brown was a late addition to the injury list. He is questionable with a non-covid illness. He will be a game time decision. For the Pistons, Cade Cunningham is out with a leg injury. Marvin Bagley III is out with a hand injury. Cory Joseph is questionable with a back injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Derrick White
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Luke Kornet (ankle) out
Jaylen Brown (illness) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Pistons Starters
PG: Jaden Ivey
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Isaiah Stewart
C: Jalen Duren
Kevin Knox II
2 Way Players
Marvin Bagley III (hand) out
Cade Cunningham (leg) out
Cory Joseph (back) questionable
Jayson Tatum vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 21.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 41.9% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this year, he is averaging 22.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He is very good from the perimeter and the Celtics need to stay with him beyond the arc.
Derrick White vs Jaden Ivey
Ivey is averaging 15.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game. Against the Celtics this season, he is averaging 22.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He shot 51.9% from the field and 54.5% from beyond the arc in the first 2 games between these teams this season. The Celtics need to be sure to slow him down in this game.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Saddiq Bey
While Bey has started much of the season, he has come off the bench in the last 2 games, with Alec Burks starting. Bey is averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 40.9% from the field and 34.9% from beyond the arc. Bey started both games against the Celtics this season and averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. He shot just 28% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. Whether off the bench or starting, Bey is one of the Pistons’ better players.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be key to winning every game. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a 110.6 defensive rating while the Pistons are 29th with a defensive rating of 118.0. The Pistons are 23rd in the league with 112.5 points per game. The Celtics have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense. The Celtics have shown signs of playing the kind of defense that had them at the top of the league last season but they haven’t been consistent and so at times allow teams to score way too easily as they did the Suns on Friday. They have to get back to making defense their priority for every possession of every game.
Rebound - Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 44.9 rebounds per game (7th) while the Pistons are averaging 42.4 rebounds (21st). The Pistons are 8th with 15.1 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 in most games, but they still lapse into iso ball from time to time and they need to avoid that and keep the ball moving.
Effort and Energy - The Celtics lacked both effort and energy in their game against the Suns. They are missing Marcus Smart, who is always good to bring both to games, but they have to can’t use that as an excuse. Every player must come into the game ready to give their best effort and to play with energy on both ends of the court. They can not let the Pistons play with more energy or more effort than them.
Trap Game - The Celtics underestimated the Suns and so did not come into the game ready to play them. The Celtics have already beaten last place Pistons twice but if they come into the game expecting to just run over them without giving any effort, they may lose their second game in a row. They can’t underestimate a team, even if they are tanking.
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. They especially need to keep their poise and not complain to the refs on every call.