FINAL: Boston: 118 Detroit: 110
For all intents and purposes, everything went according to plan for the Celtics last night in a win at TD Garden. While Kyrie Irving continues to be sidelined with his knee injury, Terry Rozier was also out with the stomach bug. Albeit shorthanded, the Celtics are a superior team than Pistons and were able to take advantage of their weaknesses. The Pistons are a poor shooting team and it showed that last night as they went 36-84 (42.9%) from the field and 13-40 (32.5%) from deep. The Celtics seemed quite content with letting them continue to pull up from three and they were rewarded with a plethora of misses. The bench alone was 3-17 from downtown for Detroit and they just continued to throw brick after brick up at the basket.
The Celtics were able to get the ball moving as they had 32 assists and had multiple guys who were able to run the offense efficiently. With Irving/Rozier both out, Gordon Hayward got a promotion back into the starting five and he ran with it. He had 18/8/5 on just 8 shots as he put together another promising performance. After his outburst against Philadelphia, this game versus Detroit was even more important for him as the test was if he could do it back to back days. He passed the test and the Celtics have to be thrilled with the progress he’s made as of late.
For the rest of the Celtics, it was a pretty spread out effort in terms of points as they had 6 different players in double figures, but nobody above 20 points. They shared the ball and everyone was able to contribute on the scoreboard.
After missing 20 straight threes and seeming to come back down to earth from downtown, Marcus Smart kept firing. He was rewarded with his resilience and willingness to fire even though he had been struggling. He shot it with confidence and was able to break out a bit with a 4-9 showing from the outside (those 4 threes were all in a row).
He brought his usual fire on the defensive end and did his usual “forcibly rip the ball from the opposition’s hands” thing he does. I personally thoroughly enjoy the “forcibly rip the ball from the opposition’s hands” play and I’m happy Smart brought it out last night because it was a delight.
Other than Smart, I thought Al Horford had another impressive night as he tallied a season high in rebounds with 14. Due to mainly Andre Drummond and now Blake Griffin, the Pistons have always given the Celtics trouble on the glass. They did the same thing last night as Drummond had 17 rebounds while Griffin had 8. Even though they still had gaudy rebounding numbers, Al was able to hold his own and led the Celtics to an advantage in the rebounding battle overall (54-49).
They Jays delivered last night too as Tatum had 19/4/4 and Brown had 17/7. I liked the aggressiveness from both players and they both took advantage by driving hard to the basket. Tatum is more technical with his moves and relies on deception/change of pace to get by his defenders. Brown on the other hand has a lightning fast first step and we saw both work to get to the basket in their own ways. Each provides a different style and it keeps the defense off balance to have to prepare for so many different types of moves from these two on the wings.
Even though they got the win, this game should not have gotten this close. With 9:37 left in the fourth quarter the Celtics led 100-72 and it looked as if they’d be able to coast to a stress free win. Detroit was up for the challenge and stormed out to a 38-18 run to close the game. It didn’t get any closer than 8 but it still wasn’t an idea way to finish the game. It’s another example of them falling asleep and not playing a full 48 minutes. They though their work was done when they got the big lead and if the Pistons started their run a couple of minutes earlier, this could have gotten a whole lot closer. In the end, they were able to enter the All-Star Break at 37-21 and are just 1 game out of 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.