Final, Celtics win 118-111: Rajon Rondo nabbed a piece of excellence here. The Boston Celtics point guard tallied 11 points and 18 assists without a single turnover as the Celtics (22-41) earned their second straight win.
Josh Smith scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, all of them largely hollow, for the Detroit Pistons (24-39). Greg Monroe, with 22 and 14, and Andre Drummond, who had 18 and 22, were actually more impressive and workmanlike, even if their stat lines weren’t as gaudy.
But the man of the hour was Rondo and how his play rubbed off on his teammates. The Celtics piled up 38 assists on 47 field goals with just seven assists. Taking care of the ball enabled the Celtics to win despite handing Detroit 39 foul shot attempts and getting outrebounded 54-39.
Fourth quarter, :20.9, Celtics 115-109: It appears the Celtics will survive, if only the officials let this game end. A video review confirmed an out-of-bounds call went in Boston’s favor, and now it’s just a matter of hitting some free throws.
Fourth quarter, :24.7, Celtics 115-109: Hold on just a second. A few free throws by Will Bynum and suddenly it’s a four-point game. Kyle Singler’s layup attempt to pull within two was blocked, which really would have made the Celtics nervous.
Kris Humphries went to the line and dropped both clutch free throws, but the Celtics still can’t exhale.
They didn’t think it would be so easy, did they?
Fourth quarter, 2:29, Celtics 111-103: Josh Smith hasn’t had a great game — Green’s 27 points attest to that — but he’s trying to salvage his night late. He’s drained two 3-pointers to give the Pistons the tiniest glimmer of hope after two straight fruitless possessions by the Celtics.
Smith has 26 points and 10 boards, but his stat line isn’t indicative of his play — until the last minute or so.
Fourth quarter, 5:35, Celtics 105-93: Of course, you knew the Babb-Bayless-Sully-Hump-Rondo lineup would defend like demons and run all over the Pistons, didn’t you?
The Celtics continue to make the Pistons pay for the slightest defensive gamble. They’re up to 36 assists, 16 of which have come courtesy of Rondo — who also has zero turnovers. He weaved a double-bounce outlet pass to Bayless for a dunk, bringing Boston’s bench to its feet.
He’s just been brilliant with the ball.
Fourth quarter, 8:26, Celtics 99-91: This is the most “together” the Celtics have played in recent memory. Not only are they sharing the ball — they have 33 assists as a team — they are playing tough.
To drive home the point, Bayless catches an outlet pass, draws the contact and banks in an and-one layup, just as the Pistons pulled back within a half-dozen points.
End of third quarter, Celtics 95-84: As well as they have played, the Celtics aren’t running away from the Pistons yet. Mostly, that’s because the Pistons should be more talented, and when they show it in spurts, they’re able to cut into Boston’s lead.
As long as Olynyk and Green stay hot, though, the Celtics can keep a comfortable distance. Still, they might want to hurry up and get Rondo back on the floor. With him on the bench, the lead shrank to nine points before Sullinger was able to get it back to double-digits with a jumper.
Third quarter, 2:32, Celtics 88-76: Not to take anything away from Green, who is white-hot, but Rondo is controlling this game. He’s up to 15 dimes now, a season-high, and Detroit resorted to a zone defense to slow down Rondo’s drive-and-dish game.
Then Green turned into a zone buster. He rained in three straight 3-pointers, part of five treys he’s hit in this game, to push Boston’s advantage to 17 points.
The Pistons have whittled away at that, but as long as Rondo continues to play this way, Detroit doesn’t have a shot. Rondo’s the best player on the court tonight by a wide margin.
Third quarter, 8:50, Celtics 68-55: Pistons coach John Loyer needs a quick timeout early in the second half. His message in the huddle will be something along the lines of, “Please stop getting owned by Rondo.”
Rondo’s now up to 12 assists, including a nifty behind-the-back number to Humphries for a free throw line jumper just now. The Celtics are feeling good, and their captain is the reason why.
Halftime, Celtics 57-49: Brad Stevens has to like what he sees. Granted, it’s the Pistons. But it’s also the Celtics, so the bar for impressive play is low.
The Celtics have put up 53 shots and 14 threes while sharing the ball and leaving the lost Pistons in the dust. With 17 assists on 23 field goals, the Celtics aren’t just playing fast, they’re playing unselfishly.
Just as important, they are playing well.
Kelly Olynyk leads four players in double figures with 13 points, while Rajon Rondo has nine assists on several pretty sick passes. Jeff Green has even supplied his occasional handful of highlight-reel finishes.
Andre Drummond, one of the few players on this Detroit team you’d actually want on your team, has a beastly 12 points and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile, Josh Smith is 3-for-9 from the field with four turnovers.
Second quarter, 2:26, Celtics 53-40: It took the Celtics a while to gain any traction, but now they’re randomly ballin’ out. It’s pretty striking.
The Celtics have forced 11 turnovers and have outscored the Pistons 27-18 in this quarter. They are moving the ball, particularly compared to the Pistons. The assist comparison is a striking 16-4 in favor of Boston.
Everyone is getting into the action, including Jared Sullinger with 10 points and Bayless with a fastbreak layup over Josh Smith for his only bucket of the game so far. A Jeff Green slam dunk even added a highlight to the impressive stretch.
Second quarter, 5:24, Celtics 43-32: Apparently Olynyk has just decided to take over. Alrighty then.
Olynyk is flying high, rising up for a tomahawk finger-roll and even drawing an away-from-the-ball and-one after a Jeff Green jumper. He’s even been active on the glass, with four rebounds. This probably isn’t sustainable, but right now Olynyk is giving Detroit’s massive front line tons of trouble and the Celtics are reaping the benefits.
Second quarter, 8:42, Celtics 36-27: Picking up right where Hump left off, Kelly Olynyk has pushed the Celtics into their largest lead of the game.
Olynyk has hit all four shots he’s taken, scoring nine points while showing some sneaky finishing skills around the hoop. He got off to a tough start of defense and picked up two fouls, but as he has gained his rhythm, he’s helped the Celtics put some distance between themselves and the Pistons.
End of first quarter, Celtics 26-22: The Celtics did just play two days ago, right? Because both teams look like they haven’t picked up a basketball in months.
Apart from Rondo, who has four points and six assists, accounting for eight of Boston’s 12 field goals, everyone looks a little rough. He’s set up Kris Humphries for a game-high 10 points, making the big guy’s job easy with fastbreak dunks and jumpers.
Kyle Singler has led Detroit’s equally shaky attack by getting to the foul line for four of his six points.
Still, style points don’t matter, only actual points do. The Celtics are just 1-for-8 from 3-point territory, but they’ve been better than the Pistons, who are 0-for-4. That’s all that matters for now.
First quarter, 5:24, Pistons 12-10: It isn’t difficult for anyone to stand out in this game, but Rajon Rondo is doing it. He scored the Celtics’ first basket — after an 0-for-5 start — and has added four assists since to give the Celtics the edge in a sloppy game.
These teams are combining to shoot 10-for-25 and have committed five fouls in under seven minutes. Jerryd Bayless and Josh Smith have both missed layups. It’s pretty rough.
4:34 p.m.: With Josh Smith checking in as the starting small forward at 6-foot-9, the Pistons boast a massive lineup. Even Kyle Singler, nominally a two-guard, towers over his opposite number at 6-foot-8.
Detroit’s size hasn’t been the advantage one might think, though, even with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe moving earth in the post. Celtics coach Brad Stevens highlighted the Pistons’ size during his pregame media availability, but not in a way that suggested that was the aspect of the game that concerned him.
“They’re really, really big for their positions, which can be advantageous for them and sometimes not be advantageous for them,” Stevens said. “Against us, it has been an advantage that we haven’t been able to expose enough on the other end in the first two games. Hopefully, we can do a better job of that tonight.”
The Pistons are first in the league in offensive rebounding and seventh in overall rebounding, but they are surprisingly weak on the defensive glass, given their size. They are the sixth-worst defensive rebounding team in the league, even with Drummond hauling 7.5 defensive boards (out of 12.9 boards total) per game.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: No team sums up the state of the Eastern Conference as tidily as the Detroit Pistons.
At 24-38, the Pistons are far from a good team. One might even say they’re downright terrible. They have dismissed a head coach already and there have been plenty of calls for general manager Joe Dumars to suffer the same fate. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings are as unreliable as ever and, simply put, just not very good basketball players. It’s not a pretty picture.
Yet the Pistons are just three games out of a playoff spot, thanks to the rest of the conference being almost as much of a mess. The Boston Celtics (21-41) are arguably less dysfunctional than the Pistons, despite being three spots lower in the standings. The Celtics merely lack talent. The Pistons lack direction.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 6 p.m.