Celtics Live Blog: Ben Gordon’s Dagger Ends C’s Comeback Bid in 98-88 Boston Loss

Celtics Live Blog: Ben Gordon's Dagger Ends C's Comeback Bid in 98-88 Boston Loss

End of game, Pistons 98-88: For people who care about that kind of thing, Ray Allen was not held without a field goal for the first time since Jan. 4, 2008. Allen hit a driving, meaningless layup against token defense with 5.7 seconds left.

The shot only changed the final score, not the result. This one was not a good loss for the Celtics and is a blight on Allen and Pierce. On a night when the Celtics needed strong play from their leaders to make up for the absence of Kevin Garnett for the first time this season, both came up small. Pierce and Allen went a combined 4-for-16 from the floor.

The loss comes despite 35 points, six assists and four steals by Rondo and 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists by Wilcox.

Rodney Stuckey scored 25 points for the Pistons, who had three playes score at least 22 points.

Fourth quarter, 1:00, Pistons 96-86: Gordon has a way of ruining even the best team's day.

The Celtics mounted something that resembled a comeback with a 6-0 run to get back within seven points, but Gordon ruined that with a dagger 3 from straight on.

Rondo has a career-high 35 points, but it could be even higher if he were better than 4-for-9 from the line. In fact, the entire complexion of the game would be different if the Celtics were better than 19-for-32 from the line.

Fourth quarter, 3:27, Pistons 93-83: Lawrence Frank may not look like a prototypical NBA coach, but he knows his X's and O's. The Pistons showed that with a flawless defensive gameplan.

Prince suffocated Pierce and Allen was never without two defenders when curling off a screen. Without Garnett's outside shooting as a threat, the Pistons overplayed the Celtics' shooters on every screen.

There is still time for a Boston comeback, but unless Detroit suffers a sever defensive breakdown or someone gets really hot for Boston, a comeback is unlikely.

Fourth quarter, 5:32, Pistons 91-80: On a night when the Celtics are without Garnett and are essentially playing without Pierce or Allen, judging by the latters' performance, it's no surprise the Pistons began to pull away in the fourth quarter.

Wilcox and Johnson kept playing at a mostly high level, hooking up on a dunk by Johnson, but the Celtics got hardly any other offense.

Knight capped a 13-4 run as the Celtics looked confused with Pierce and Allen a combined 3-for-13 from the field.

Fourth quarter, 8:27, Pistons 82-76: Any time a misguided fan says, "Why don't the Celtics play that young guy more often?" then you can point to games like this.

Johnson, Bradley and Greg Stiemsma, who have all played well in spurts for the Celtics, made several inexperienced errors that won't turn up in the boxscore, allowing the Pistons to take off on a 7-2 run. Gordon hit two 3's, one after slipping Bradley's defense over a screen.

Pierce finally got into the game with two free throws and a jumper. The Celtics will need him to come to play down the stretch.

End of third quarter, Pistons 73-72: It's obvious Wilcox felt good, because he took a jumper from a step beyond the free throw line — and hit it.

Somebody other than Rondo, Wilcox and Johnson may want to get in on the action for Boston, however. Prince, Stuckey and Monroe teamed up on a 6-0 Detroit run, ending in Monroe's putback, to give the Pistons the lead.

That's Detroit's first lead since 7:46 left in the second quarter.

Third quarter, 2:44, Celtics 70-65: The Celtics get rightfully criticized for not going to the hoop and drawing enough fouls. Even though they've done that against the Pistons with 24 free throw attempts, the hit just 13 of those shots.

Fortunately for the Celtics, Johnson, Wilcox and Rondo would not let the Pistons capitalize on their 19-for-21 foul shooting mark.

Rondo was up to 31 points, while Wilcox had 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Wilcox had a nifty touch pass in the post to Johnson for a short teardrop jumper for two of Johnson's eight points.

The aforementioned floater is usually used by smaller players, but Monroe might have one of the best floaters for a big man since Tim Duncan. The Detroit center worked his way up to 14 points.

Third quarter, 8:37, Celtics 59-53: Rondo is having one of those nights. With four more baskets in the first 3:23 of the third quarter, the Celtics point guard got up to 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting. 

When the Pistons challenged him to shoot outside jumpers, he took and hit them. When they covered him with the quicker Knight, Rondo took the rook into the post and beat him with an array of moves down low.

Halftime, Celtics 49-47: With Kevin Garnett missing the game with a hip flexor injury and Jermaine O'Neal battling foul trouble with three personals, JaJuan Johnson and Chris Wilcox got ample opportunity to show their stuff in the first half.

Both the rookie and the vet ran with it.

Wilcox scored 10 points, the most on the team by anyone not named Rajon Rondo, and Johnson went 3-for-6 from the field for six points. Perhaps just as importantly, they've helped to limit Pistons center Greg Monroe and power forward Jason Maxiell to 10 points combined.

Here's the good, the bad and the so-so. Guess who starts "the good."

The Good: Is this a game of role reversals? Garnett, who hasn't missed a game yet, is out. Ray Allen tied for the game high with five rebounds, and Rondo had a game-high 19 points and just three assists. Rondo was 8-for-13 from the field in the first half. … Rodney Stuckey is a much better player than most people give him credit for. The fifth-year guard out of Eastern Washington led Detroit with 15 points, with the majority of it coming in his nine trips to the free throw line, where he was perfect. He also had three assists and only one turnover.

The Bad: Pierce took five shots and missed all but one of them. With Rondo handling the scoring, Pierce took over the playmaking, handing out four assists, the most in the game.

The So-so: Ben Gordon can get in a groove and become close to upstoppable, so it had to be a little concerning for the C's when he scored two buckets within 40 seconds in the second quarter. But the UConn product committed three fouls and did not register a rebound or an assist in the first half. … Allen grabbed those five rebounds, but he went 0-for-3 from the field and only got on the board thanks to an 8-for-9 mark from the foul line. That bodes well for his aggressiveness, though, as do his two steals.

Second quarter, 2:32, Celtics 43-38: Paul Pierce, who didn't attempt a field goal until the 11:14 mark of the second quarter, finally got in the scoring column with a short jumper along the left baseline.

Pierce's poor shooting wasn't as surprising as Rondo's strong shooting.

Rondo knocked down a corner 3-pointer to bring his total to 19 points. Rondo, hitting a 3? What's going on here? If he starts to hit his free throws, something very fishy is happening.

OK, he's only 2-for-5 from the line. Whew. Carry on.

Second quarter, 5:39, Celtics 37-35: He's not about to upstage Rondo, but Johnson continues to give the Celtics things to feel optimistic about.

The rookie followed his hook by chasing down an offensive rebound and finishing for an and-one — although he missed the free throw.

He was put in a bad spot with the shot clock winding down and had to take a contested jumper, which was blocked.

Second quarter, 8:06, Pistons 34-33: The floater in the lane is one of the most unstoppable shots in basketball, no matter how short the offensive player is. The Pistons used the weapon to pull back into the lead against the Celtics early in the second.

Walker Russell, at 6 feet, and Ben Gordon, at 6-3, each hit a floater to give the Pistons a 32-31 lead, their first since midway through the first quarter. The Celtics took back the lead on a nifty hook by JaJuan Johnson, but Gordon — who showed signs of heating up — nailed a jumper to take back the lead for the Pistons.

Bill Russell is in the house. Hopefully, for one night at least, this halts all the debate over whether Pierce is in the same class as Larry Bird. Anybody who bothers to argue such a meaningless debate can just be referred to Russell and his 11 championship rings.

End of first quarter, Celtics 28-26: For a bad basketball team, the Pistons aren't a terrible free throw shooting team. They used that skill to stay tight with the Celtics in the first quarter.

Despite shooting 53 percent from the field, the Celtics were unable to pull away from Detroit due to the Pistons' 10-for-10 mark from the foul line. The Celtics, showing an unusual tendency to push the ball, went 8-for-12 from the line in the first quarter.

Rondo played the entire first quarter, posting 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting (1-for-3 from the line), two assists, two steals and only one turnover.

First quarter, 2:23, Celtics 22-20: Rondo is having another one of those games. Three days after an Oscar Robertson-like triple-double, Rondo scored 11 points, had two assists and two steals with more than two minutes left in the first quarter. The Celtics are likely to need every ounce of what he'll give them, as the Pistons refused to go away quietly in the first 10 minutes.

First quarter, 5:31, Celtics 16-14: For those wondering why Knight is wearing a clear plastic mask, he broke his nose in a game against the Hornets two weeks ago and is wearing it as a precaution.

By all accounts, Knight doesn't like the mask and plans to lose it as soon as possible.

First quarter, 5:48, Celtics 16-12: Whew. When Rondo turns it on, no rookie point guard is going to slow him down.

Starting with his steal and goaltend-assisted layup, Rondo reeled off seven straight points as part of a 10-0 Boston run to give the Celtics the lead. He banked in a floater to give the Celtics their first lead at 13-12. His floater, on which he drew a foul by rookie Brandon Knight and hit the free throw, gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game at five points.

First quarter, 6:49, Pistons 12-9: The Pistons, who have five players who average double digures in scoring but none with more than 16.4 points per game, showed off their even offense with four different players scoring in the game's opening 3:12.

Rajon Rondo caused a hush to come over the crowd when he went down while attempting a fastbreak layup (Jason Maxiell was called for goaltending), but he came to his feet after a few moments.

Chris Wilcox showed his usual energy with three baskets in the first five minutes, all off simply running the floor.

7:32 p.m.: He's no Jeremy Lin, but Pistons center Greg Monroe is a much quieter surprise story of this season.

The Georgetown product upped his production to 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds this season from less than 10 and eight a year ago. His efficiency rating is up to 24.0, 11th in the NBA and in the rarified air of Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Monroe is not a great shot-blocker. He averages only 0.6 blocks per game, which partly explains a damning plus-12.33 defensive rating, according to basketballvalue.com. Most of the explanation for that, though, probably comes from playing behind a backcourt not noted for stopping the ball.

7:18 p.m.: Chris Wilcox will replace Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup, CSN New England reports.

The probable starting lineups are below.

Pistons
Greg Monroe
Jason Maxiell
Tayshaun Prince
Rodney Stuckey
Brandon Knight

Celtics
Jermaine O'Neal
Chris Wilcox
Paul Pierce
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo

6:45 p.m.: Kevin Garnett's streak as the one Celtics player to not miss a single game this season is in jeopardy, but the chance of it staying alive improved somewhat.

Garnett, who was out of Tuesday's practice, is probable to play Wednesday with a right hip flexor strain. He reportedly was upgraded after participating in Wednesday's shootaround.

8 a.m. ET: The Detroit Pistons aren't about to strike fear into the hearts of many opponents, as they still occupy last place in the Central Division. After a dismal December January, though, the Pistons have put together a decent run of success in February, going 4-3 entering Tuesday to match their win total from the previous month-plus.

Part of Detroit's success comes from avoiding the destructive injuries that have befallen almost every other team. Point guard Will Bynum missed 15 games with an ankle injury and forward Charlie Villanueva is out indefinitely with a sprained right ankle, but nine of their regulars have played at least 24 of the team's 29 games thus far.

The Celtics, who will be without Brandon Bass, their leading scorer off the bench, for at least another week, envy Detroit's health. They don't envy Detroit's record, however.

Get updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. from TD Garden.

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