Game over, Pistons win 103-83: The streak lives. Jared Sullinger hit a “clutch” jump shot from the top of the circle to give Rajon Rondo his 10th assist, marking the 34th straight game in which the Celtics point guard has reached double digits in assists.
Rondo also scored 12 points to register the double-double, but nobody in green really had reason to be happy after this one. The Celtics committed 18 turnovers and handed out only 12 assists — which means that everyone not named “Rondo” combined for exactly two dimes.
Sullinger led Boston (6-5) with 16 points but he was no answer for Detroit’s front line. Third-year center Greg Monroe recorded 20 points and 13 rebounds, Jason Maxiell scored 15 points and Tayshaun Prince scored 10 points. With Kyle Singler scoring 14, every Pistons starter except point guard Brandon Knight was in double figures. Rodney Stuckey dropped 14 and Corey Maggette came through with 11 off the bench to make the dismantling complete as Detroit (2-9) earned its first home win.
The Celtics get a likely day off on Monday before a needed practice Tuesday to prepare for the Spurs. Chances are, Kevin Garnett and the crew will be a bit more fired up for that one on Wednesday.
Fourth quarter, 1:38, Pistons 98-79: The Celtics called a timeout. Possibly to draw up a set play to get Rondo his 10th assist? Heck, why not?
Fourth quarter, 2:59, Pistons 96-77: Remember that stuff about the Celtics at least not trailing by 20? Do not count on things staying that way very long.
Once the Celtics went to a small lineup with Sullinger essentially playing center, the Pistons immediately went inside to Monroe for four straight points. Hmmmm… who wrote last week that these small lineups can provide a spark, but can also turn out to be a defensive liability against teams with decent big men?
The only important news left for the Celtics on the night may be the extension of Rondo’s double-digit assist streak. With less than three minutes to go, he needed two more assists to extend his streak to 34 games.
Fourth quarter, 8:40, Pistons 79-65: After 36 minutes of mostly dreadful basketball, there was still time early in the fourth quarter for the Celtics to make a game of it. A trey by Lee cut the deficit to 12 points, but that was brief. The Pistons added to that and kept causing trouble with their dribble penetration. With close to nine minutes to go in the game, they had taken 24 free throws and were primed for more.
The issues for Barbosa defensively show up more starkly in games in which the Celtics play poorly as a team. He gambles too often, which leads to wide-open looks for the likes of Will Bynum. It is a shame, because if he could be more reliable on that end, he could play longer to provide the boost he brings to the offensive end of the floor.
End of third quarter, Pistons lead 71-57: Let’s see. Bright spots, bright spots…
Well, at least the Celtics’ deficit did not hit 20 points. There is that.
The third quarter was mostly devoid of positive things to say about the Celtics. They were nearly doubled-up until a late spurt cut the quarter scoring margin to 23-14. They shot 5-for-16 from the field, missed all three 3-pointers they attempted and committed six turnovers while recording one assist. Meanwhile they sent Detroit to the line for eight free throws and forced only two turnovers.
This might have been one night when nothing went right for the Celtics.
Third quarter, 3:44, Pistons 63-53: Maybe the backups could do better. With none of Boston’s starters capable of getting anything going on offense, Rivers subbed in Lee and Green. Hey, it couldn’t hurt to try. The Celtics were just 4-for-11 to begin the second half and the Pistons had built up as much as a 12-point lead.
Third quarter, 9:05, Pistons 54-45: This was supposed to be a walkthrough game, as in the Celtics could show up and win with all the intensity of a walkthrough. That may have been the problem.
The Celtics stopped looking mentally awake sometime late in the first quarter and never recovered. After being outscored 25-18 in the second quarter, they came out after halftime and watched Detroit score six of the first eight points. Maxiell decimated them inside with his energy while Monroe did the same with his steadiness.
Halftime, Pistons lead 48-43: Normally if Rondo has two 3-pointers by the half, that is good news for the Celtics. But inattention to detail cost the Celtics in the first half against the lowly Pistons, who are winless at home and have only one win in 10 tries.
The Celtics were outrebounded 21-16 — not that that is anything new for them — and were stagnant on offense with only six assists on 17 field goals. When they got to the foul line, which was not often, they missed four out of 10. Meanwhile the young and supposedly undisciplined Pistons were 11-for-13 from the stripe and had 12 turnovers, but those were somewhat excusable because at least they were being aggressive.
Rondo led the Celtics with 10 points and five assists, having hit all four shots he took. Green scored six points off the bench for Boston, but the Celtics did not get much production from their bench. The Pistons won the scoring battle among the backups 18-11 thanks to eight points from Maggette and six points from Stuckey.
Second quarter, 3:45, Pistons 38-36: At 6-foot-8, Singler has a huge size advantage over Terry, who is 6-foot-2, and Rondo, who is 6-foot-1. The Pistons rookie tried to muscle up both, but Rondo was not having it. After Singler was whistled for a phantom offensive foul, he and Rondo had an exchange that left Singler smirking. Rondo was not smiling, though, as the Celtics trailed one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Second quarter, 6:16, Celtics 36-34: Brandon Knight had the ball on the right wing, looked up and realized he had a free lane to the hoop. He naturally dribbled the ball off his foot.
But he recovered. Fortunately for Knight, the ball caromed toward the basket, so all he needed to do was pick it up cleanly and score the open layup, since the Celtics still had not recovered. Only he did not pick it up cleanly. Knight fumbled the ball off his fingertips and then out of bounds.
These are the Pistons, folks. Yeesh. Yet because Boston was only 6-for-10 from the foul line, they only trailed by two points.
Second quarter, 8:35, game tied 31-31: The Pistons have a young core, but they have a number of savvy vets they can bring off the bench. Against a Celtics squad trying to find its fire, those guys were enough to keep Detroit in this game.
Corey Maggette, Will Bynum and Stuckey played big roles in the 9-0 run that punched the Pistons into the lead for a spell. Green helped the Celtics pull even again by bursting off a screen and driving to the hoop, but Leandro Barbosa was the main Boston player bringing some sort of aggression.
End of first quarter, Celtics lead 25-23: Prior to Saturday’s afternoon game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and a couple of players warned against being complacent in the midday atmosphere. That did not turn out to be a problem as the Boston crowd would not let the Celtics slack off.
In Detroit… not so much.
Give credit to anybody who can get psyched up in a gym that appeared to be three-quarters empty. The few fans who attended gave it a try whenever their Pistons did something positive, but their valiant attempts seemed forced. It is not a surprise this team is 0-3 at home. Losses lead to blase fans. Indifferent crowds make it tougher to get pumped up. Failure to get pumped up leads to poor play, which leads to losses.
First quarter, 2:55, Celtics 20-15: It was quickly apparent that the statkeeping in Detroit would be a bit stingier than in Boston. The official scorer in Boston tends to be… liberal, to say the least, when assigning Rondo’s assists. When Garnett receives a pass in the post, spins, pump fakes, dribbles, drop steps and scores a layup, as he did Saturday, and Rondo still gets the assist, that tends to help an assist total drive up.
Early on, it was obvious Rondo would get no such favorable rulings. He had only three assists despite helping at least five shots that probably would have been designated as assists at the TD Garden.
In other words, folks, please try not to complain about the statkeeping too much in this one. This could just be a way of evening things out.
First quarter, 6:10, Celtics 15-9: Brandon Bass has had trouble with his jump shot recently, which is a surprise since his midrange jumper is right up there with Kevin Garnett’s as one of the most reliable on the team. He missed his first two shots in this game, but like any true shooter he kept firing. Bass’ third attempt tickled the twine as one of the Celtics’ six baskets on 10 attempts.
Greg Monroe looked just as good as advertised in the opening minutes — with the exception of a crosscourt pass he airmailed into the stands. He did not look to have much help, though. Detroit’s second-best starter is arguably Tayshaun Prince, the 32-year-old ‘tweener.
6:44 p.m.: Rodney Stuckey has always been a pretty reliable player, although nobody would know it from watching him this year. Still, Pistons coach Lawrence Frank stuck with the veteran guard. Stuckey remained in the starting lineup until Wednesday’s game against the Sixers, when he missed the game with the flu.
Rookie Kyle Singler started that game and remained there for Friday’s matchup with the Magic. Stuckey has said he is fine coming off the bench, but it is a surprising stumble for a player who just signed a three-year deal last winter.
6:35 p.m.: It was really nice of the NFL to give Boston fans an appetizer to the real game going on in Detroit. Hopefully, for the Patriots’ sake, their game ends a little early so people do not start streaming for the exits to keep from missing tip-off.
Rajon Rondo is expected to remain in the lineup for the second straight game after missing one day of work with a sprained right ankle. Darko Milicic will not be part of the proceedings, however, as the center deals with a personal matter. This is the second straight day a Celtics big man is out for personal reasons, after Jason Collins was inactive Saturday against the Raptors.
Also, Garnett had to skip out on his customary postgame interview on Wednesday as he dealt with a personal matter. Who do these guys think they are, real human beings?
That was sarcasm. Yes, these guys are real people with real people problems, which we tend to forget sometimes.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: These Pistons are redefining the nickname “Bad Boys.”
Through 10 games, the Pistons are really bad. They lost their first eight games and followed up their first win of the season with a loss to the rebuilding Magic. Greg Monroe is still an improving young big man, but once-key players like Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum have continued their fall toward irrelevance.
In other words, this is as good a time as any for the Celtics to pay a visit. This game ends a stretch of four games in five days for the Celtics, who then have two days to dust off before hosting Western Conference heavyweights San Antonio and Oklahoma City later in the week. Another wide victory like the one the Celtics enjoyed Saturday against the Raptors would be welcome.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.