Final, Celtics 105-100: Clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch is enough to seal the deal. Rondo hits two with 24 seconds left, Allen knocks down two at the 16-second mark, and then Rondo heads to the line for two more free throws with six seconds left after a late Tayshaun Prince 3. He makes them both, and the Celtics finish the job. Ten straight free throws down the stretch, and the Celtics have themselves a nice road win.
Fourth quarter, 24.7 seconds, Celtics 99-95: These Pistons aren't dying quietly. They've started fouling with 24 seconds left, putting Rajon Rondo at the line with a chance to make it a six-point game. If he doesn't knock these down, we might still have a game on our hands.
Fourth quarter, 1:13, Celtics 95-90: The Celtics' starting five knows how to hold a lead in the fourth quarter, right? Slow the game down, call smart, efficient plays in the halfcourt. Drain that shot clock. Someone send the memo to Rasheed Wallace and Ray Allen, who have each settled for bad jumpers in the past minute of this game. If the C's can slow this game down, value the basketball and get off one or two more smart shots, this game is over. If not? We'll see.
Fourth quarter, 3:00, Celtics 94-88: Either that's LeBron James in disguise, or Rodney Stuckey just made the most athletic defensive play of his life, diving from out of nowhere to stuff Nate Robinson on an attempt to drive to the basket for an easy layup. The Celtics get the ball back and Doc Rivers calls for a timeout, though, so we'll soon see the starting five return for the final three minutes. Time to see if the C's can hold a lead.
Fourth quarter, 4:39, Celtics 92-83: Another three, this one from Rasheed Wallace, and now the Celtics are really starting to pull away. The C's bench now has 39 total points, led by Robinson and Davis, and they're firmly in control of this game now. KG is now back on the floor alongside Wallace, which should give Boston the defensive fortitude down low to close this thing out.
Fourth quarter, 5:36, Celtics 89-83: Nate Robinson may be a dunk contest legend, but why isn't he entering the three-point shootout every year, too? The little man in green has knocked down three 3's in the fourth quarter — long ones, too. Nate now has 14 points, a team high, and the Celtics are starting to pull away in the fourth quarter. They have a good chance of finishing the deal once the starters retake the floor and get a few key stops down the stretch. You've got to like the Celtics' chances now.
Fourth quarter, 9:32, Celtics 81-79: The Celtics are starting off the fourth quarter with their second unit on the floor, and somehow it's working for them. Glen Davis has six points for Boston in the first two-plus minutes off the fourth, and Boston is back in front. Shelden Williams, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels and Tony Allen round out the lineup around Big Baby — the Celtics are keeping their starters rested as crunch time nears.
End of third quarter, Pistons 75-72: The Pistons are now without Tayshaun Prince, who lands funny after chasing a loose rebound and hobbles off the floor on a bad ankle. But it hasn't seemed to slow them down one bit — in fact, Detroit reclaims the lead at the end of the third quarter thanks to a couple of big shots from Rip Hamilton and a solid final two minutes defensively. The C's could really use an inspired fourth quarter from Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, on both sides of the floor. They've got to stop Rip from hitting open shots, and they've got to knock down a couple of their own. Otherwise, you're looking at three straight Celtics losses.
Third quarter, 3:40, Celtics 68-67: Doc Rivers has been very hesitant to dip into his bench here in the third quarter — every Celtic starter has already played 20-plus minutes in this game, while no one off the bench has even touched double digits. That means the Celtics have their best players on the floor, but it also gives the Pistons a chance to sneak back into this game against a Boston defense that's looking increasingly fatigued and lazy. A Jerebko layup with 3:55 left makes it a one-point game, and the onus is now on the Celtics to create some separation between now and the end of the third quarter.
Third quarter, 6:20, Celtics 64-58: This is the most active we have seen Rasheed Wallace defensively in a long, long time. He's not only playing a solid 1-on-1 game against rookie Jonas Jerebko, but he's doing it all to help his team — switching with ease on picks and screens, helping out on other guys when his teammates get burned, being the perfect team defender. It might have something to do with facing his former teammates. 'Sheed has elevated his game in a big way against Detroit this season.
Third quarter, 9:43, Celtics 59-54: We may have just seen Kevin Garnett's most thunderous dunk of the season. Sad but true. Garnett has come to life early in the second half, and he's working hard to pad the Celtics' lead with Stuckey and the Pistons refusing to die quietly. Should make for a fun back-and-forth offensively in the second half.
Halftime, Celtics 55-52: The Celtics manage to rattle off a 10-2 run in the last couple minutes of the first half, putting them back in the driver's seat as we head to the break. The Pistons have slackened up a little bit defensively toward the end of the half, and Rajon Rondo has capitalized by driving the lane and creating opportunities for himself offensively. Rondo pours in six points in just over two minutes toward the end of the half; he leads the Celtics at the break with 11 points and six assists overall.
Second quarter, 2:24, Pistons 50-47: You could really make a case that there's not a point guard in the NBA more aggressive at slashing and scoring than the Pistons' Rodney Stuckey. Who else qualifies for that list? Baron Davis, Brandon Jennings? Aaron Brooks, maybe? It's not a long list of guys, and Stuck might be right there at the top. He knows how to make things happen. Stuckey has seven points in this game, most among the 10 starters tonight. Austin Daye has come out of nowhere to lead everyone with nine, and Gordon has come to life to chip in eight points for the Pistons, who have led for most of this second quarter.
Second quarter, 5:22, 43-43: Good news for the Celtics midway through the second quarter: The C's have played 10 different guys so far in this first half and all 10 have scored. They're sharing the ball amazingly well tonight, as evidenced by the team's 10 points and only three turnovers.
The bad news? Foul trouble. Rasheed, Garnett and Tony Allen now have two personals each, which really depletes the Celtics' forward corps. With Perkins out, expect the Celtics to rely on Pierce and Marquis Daniels for a bulk of the minutes down the stretch tonight.
Second quarter, 7:40, Pistons 38-37: Shelden Williams has only played four minutes tonight backing up Rasheed, but that's already his longest stint on the floor in a month and a half, since he logged 6:45 in a loss to the Bulls on Jan. 14. Bad timing for Shelden to get rattled a little bit by a cheap-shot loose ball foul from Villanueva, who grabs Williams' arm and scratches him up a little going for a rebound. The C's will need Williams' physical presence to stay in this game, especially with Sheed in early foul trouble (he's got two).
Second quarter, 9:54, Celtics 32-30: It's worth mentioning that the Pistons pumped a total of $95 million last season into rebuffing their bench with the addition of two scorers, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. And so far, they've gotten four points on 1-of-5 shooting from the two guys combined. And it's not like tonight is a special occasion, either — this is sort of the norm. You have to wonder what the Pistons' long-term rebuilding plan is going forward.
End of first quarter, 25-25: Say what you will about the Celtics' chemistry over the past couple of months, but Rondo and Davis continue to move the ball really well together, and it's also great to see Shelden Williams come off the bench for a rare first-quarter appearance, giving the Celtics some toughness down low and some rebounding ability. The Celtics continue to pick the Detroit defense apart and create scoring opportunities — but the Pistons are outshooting the Celtics from the floor, 44.4 percent to 37.5. This game is deadlocked at the break.
First quarter, 3:04, Celtics 20-17: Glen Davis has been a big spark for the Celtics off the bench midway through this first quarter — he's not just scoring, but he's making hustle plays to create opportunities for teammates, and he's perfectly in sync with Rajon Rondo offensively, with the two of them moving the ball beautifully. Certainly helps, by the way, that the Pistons have looked asleep defensively on a number of possessions early on. The C's are keeping their early lead intact, at least for the moment.
First quarter, 5:46, Celtics 15-13: No love lost between Rasheed and his former teammates in Detroit, right? Well … not exactly. 'Sheed is the Celtics' primary defender in the paint with Perkins out, and the Pistons are taking it right at him, driving the lane and creating scoring opportunities. It helps that these Pistons are a big team across the board — even their guards. Rodney Stuckey is 6-foot-5 and Richard Hamilton is 6-foot-7. The Pistons are being aggressive offensively, and it's keeping them in this game. 'Sheed will be tested tonight, no doubt.
First quarter, 9:44, Celtics 9-4: No one's saying that Kendrick Perkins is the MVP of the Celtics this season, but at the same time, it's hard to name a more influential Celtic offensively. Without him, this team is completely lacking an interior presence — Perk is replaced in the starting five by Rasheed Wallace, and 'Sheed has kept his game mostly between the 3-point lines over the past few months. Don't expect the C's to win any points-in-the-paint battles with this starting five.
On the bright side, though, 'Sheed is on fire from outside, including a big 3 to open the scoring for Boston on the first possession. The C's have an early lead.
7:33 p.m.: We suspected it on Monday night, and it's now official: The big man is out, but the captain's back. Kendrick Perkins, who failed to make it aboard the team's flight to Detroit yesterday afternoon due to flu-like symptoms, won't be able to take the floor for the C's tonight. But on the bright side, Paul Pierce returns to the starting five after missing all of last week with a thumb injury. It'll be interesting to see how Pierce performs in his first night back, whether he can go all out or whether he remains tentative offensively. The Celtics could really use a fully-loaded Pierce to jump-start their game offensively.
9:42 a.m.: Day-to-day injuries and minor illnesses continue to take their toll on the Celtics' roster. It's a different starting five every week, and this week might not be an exception.
Paul Pierce, who missed all of last week with an injured right thumb, will be back in action on Tuesday night when the Celtics take the floor at the Palace at Auburn Hills to square off with the host Pistons. The same might not be true of Kendrick Perkins.
The C's big man missed his flight to Detroit with the team Monday, battling flu-like symptoms that have spread across Boston's roster like wildfire the past few weeks. He hopes to return Tuesday night and rejoin the team in action, but that possibility remains in doubt.
After losing to the Nets on Saturday, the Celtics could really use a win to restore their collective confidence. Unfortunately for them, they're still trying to figure out the lineup that could get them that win. We'll have to wait and see on this one.