Final, Pistons win 115-111: The Boston Celtics must really want to win the draft lottery.
With a victory in hand over one of the NBA’s most mercurial teams, the Celtics frittered away a 19-point lead in the second half to fall to the Detroit Pistons.
Jerryd Bayless scored 25 points, but he needed 28. His 3-pointer late in the game popped in and out, sending the Celtics (23-54) to their eighth straight defeat. Rodney Stuckey led all scorers for Detroit (28-49).
Fourth quarter, :05.6, Pistons 115-111: This might be the new low point. Bayless had a good look at a three that went half — no, three-quarters — of the way down before rattling out.
Jennings hits two free throws to put Detroit up four, and the Celtics will have one last shot at a miracle.
Fourth quarter, :57.6, Pistons 113-111: Really, Green’s lack of defensive attentiveness and hustle on the last several possessions has to be called out.
Locked in a tight game, Green never arrived to help his teammate when Drummond came sweeping across the lane for a game-tying hook shot, and he stood idly by while Pressey took on two Detroit players for a rebound, resulting in a foul on Pressey. It’s winning time — that goes for both the offensive and defensive ends.
Fourth quarter, 2:51, Celtics 110-107: The Celtics’ starters (for tonight) are trying really, really hard not to lose this one.
Bass and Bayless have hit big jumpers, and Pressey — yes, Pressey — tips home a Sully miss to push Boston’s advantage to three. There are some lapses at the defensive end, though, where Bass has picked up two cheap fouls having to cover for Green, who has failed to locate the ball multiple times down.
Fourth quarter, 5:55, Celtics 103-102: Stevens might have stayed with the bench a bit too long. Although Babb, Johnson and others brought some hustle, Green and Bass have spent a lot of time on the bench.
Now Green, who had 19 points at halftime, is 2-for-6 in the second half and finally got a runner to go to keep Boston in the lead.
Fourth quarter, 7:12, Pistons 100-99: If the Pistons could make a layup, they might lead by double-digits right now. If it weren’t for Bayless, they definitely would.
Bayless has made a couple of shots to bail out the Celtics, but he can’t do it all. The Celtics have been outscored 15-4 to open the fourth quarter and Jonas Jerebko has drilled a couple of threes to push Detroit into the lead.
Coming off two of the worst two losses of the season, the Celtics looked to be headed for an encouraging win. Instead, they could be primed for their worst collapse of all.
Fourth quarter, 11:42, Celtics 95-85: Early in the fourth quarter, Stevens saw fit to waste a timeout. With the way Chris Babb hit the deck after a loose ball, it was probably worth it.
Babb is getting extended time for the first time in weeks, playing 12 minutes and counting. He’s missed both shots he has attempted, but he has a game-high four steals, showing that he has the tools to potentially become a decent NBA defender one day.
End of third quarter, Celtics 95-85: After a circuitous route, absolutely nothing has changed at the end of three.
The Celtics still lead by 10 points, despite leading by as many as 19 at one point and going through a drought that nearly led the Pistons back into the game. But now it’s as if the last 12 minutes never happened. The Celtics just have to maintain the same steady level for the last 12.
He’s no Rondo, but Pressey is having a Rondo-like game. He has 10 points and 10 assists, and has missed just one of his shots. Perhaps best of all for Boston, the rookie has just one turnover.
Third quarter, 4:59, Celtics 86-73: It’s the NBA. Everybody has a run in them. Even the Pistons.
Led by Andre Drummond, who has decided to just dunk on things now, the Pistons are on a 13-7 run to get as close as they’ve been since the half. It’s probably not enough for Brad Stevens to worry but — actually, never mind. We have seen the Celtics all season. We should know better by now.
Third quarter, 8:43, Celtics 79-60: Just like that, the Celtics have picked up right where they left off.
Pressey and Bayless opened the second half with threes, making them a perfect 5-for-5 combined beyond the arc. The Celtics just keep pouring them on, too, with Sullinger drilling a triple to make Boston 12-for-17 from deep.
Halftime, Celtics 65-55: Although they topped 30 points in each of the first two quarters, the Celtics have sort of set back into a holding pattern. But it’s been enough to them to maintain a double-digit lead over the Pistons.
Despite finishing the first half essentially trading baskets with the Pistons, the Celtics enter the half with a 10-point edge thanks to outstanding shooting from the field and from the line, hard work on the boards and strength with the basketball.
They are shooting 55 percent overall, 8-for-12 from three and 11-for-12 from the free throw stripe. Meanwhile, they hold a 24-17 edge on the glass and have committed just six turnovers.
Jeff Green’s 19 points leads four Celtics players in double figures. Sullinger is already closing in on a double-double with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Phil Pressey has five points and six assists in place of Rajon Rondo.
Andre Drummond has 11 points and nine rebounds, providing a challenge as usual in the paint. Greg Monroe has scored 12 and Rodney Stuckey has 15, with his strength allowing him to get to the line for seven attempts. But down by 10, the Pistons need more than methodical points from their post men if they’re going to make a dent.
Second quarter, 3:50, Celtics 54-46: If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: The two-tiered flagrant foul system has made it impossible to contest hard on opponent’s shots near the rim.
Bayless chased down Kyle Singler on a fast break and stuffed Singler’s layup attempt, sending both crashing into the basket standard. Bayless got a ton of ball, but it was a foul. It was not a flagrant.
However, upon review the officials opted to give Bayless a flagrant-1. This is the problem with the flagrant system. With two tiers — 1 being the less-severe — refs are way too quick to issue unnecessary flagrants when they shouldn’t.
Second quarter, 5:32, Celtics 52-40: The Celtics are doing what the Sixers did to them last night, and what the Sixers did to the Pistons to end their 26-game losing streak. They’re just plain playing harder.
The Celtics own a dominating 21-12 advantage on the glass, which is the best way to encapsulate how much harder the Celtics are working. Bass and Sullinger each have four offensive rebounds, giving them more offensive boards between them than Detroit has as a team (six).
Rodney Stuckey has provided 11 points off the bench, but taking nine shots in just 11 minutes sure has helped.
Second quarter, 9:52, Celtics 40-29: Sullinger’s hitting threes, Pressey is finishing over defenders at the rim and Jerryd Bayless is dropping dimes.
What in the world is going on here?
The Celtics are on a 9-0 run, keyed by a putback by Sullinger and ending with a contested layup by Pressey after a two-one-one dish from Bayless. Now the Celtics just have to keep this up, if they can.
End of first quarter, Celtics 32-29: How easy did points come to Boston in the first quarter? Phil Pressey, a 25-percent 3-point shooter, swished one from really deep as the shot clock expired.
The Celtics are shooting a cool 60 percent from the field and are 4-for-7 from three after a blistering first quarter. Jeff Green is the first man in double figures with 11 points, taking advantage of the spacing created by Bass and Sully’s work down low and Sully’s two triples.
Granted, the Celtics could stand to improve on defense. The Pistons are shooting 52 percent, so the offensive explosion is a two-way street. Still, this is the most encouraging start the Celtics have had in a week.
First quarter, 4:51, Celtics 23-16: At least the Celtics are consistent with their slow starts. They missed three of their first four shots to fall behind early. This time, though, they got things straightened out a bit earlier than usual.
Surprisingly, against a relatively intimidating Detroit front line, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass are carrying Boston early. They are each 3-for-4 from the field with eight points as the Celtics have hit nine of their 14 attempts as a team.
Say this for Brandon Bass: He’s consistently played like he gives a crap all season long. You can’t say that for everybody.
6:07 p.m.: For the first time since Feb. 21, Jared Sullinger will be on the floor when the ball goes up.
A combination of injury issues and Kris Humphries’ solid play have displaced the second-year big man from the starting lineup, but with Humphries staying at home with knee tendinitis, Sully is back with the starting five.
He’ll join Phil Pressey, who starts at the point in place of Rondo, and Bayless, who starts at off-guard for Bradley. Thanks to radio play-by-play voice Sean Grande for the lineup update. [tweet https://twitter.com/SeanGrandePBP/status/452566855245631489 align=’center’]
The projected starters appear below.
5:15 p.m.: We agree with Josh Smith.
(Wait, who said that? What? Where? Huh?)
No, really. The much-maligned forward — who deserves a lot of the maligning — defended himself to the Detroit News. Acknowledging that he is an “easy target,” Smith said that he is not the only reason the Pistons are bad.
To an extent, that is true.
“If you played the game, if you know X’s and O’s, it’s not all my fault,” Smith told Vincent Goodwill. “I’m not going to say I’m perfect, by far, but I’m not the guy you can point the finger at. I’m a firm believer in, you point one finger at one person, point three back at yourself.”
Smith is far from Detroit’s only problem, of course, and he is only playing in the inefficient way he knows how. But he does hold a modest amount of culpability for the Pistons’ roster construction — nobody forced him to sign that $54 million contract last offseason — that has made a mess of the team’s on-floor spacing. Yet he is correct in that Detroit’s issues go a lot deeper than one man.
If Smith has any doubts about that, he can just watch this scene from Good Will Hunting a few times to reassure him.
3 p.m. ET: A skeleton crew for the Boston Celtics makes a pit stop in Motown on Saturday.
With Rajon Rondo serving his usual rest on the second leg of a back-to-back and Avery Bradley missing his third straight game with a strained Achilles, the Celtics (23-53) are already shorthanded. It won’t help that Kris Humphries stayed in Boston with a strained right patellar tendon, leaving the Celtics with just nine available bodies against the Detroit Pistons (27-49).
Then again, the Pistons aren’t world-beaters. Somehow, a team once in the playoff picture has dropped 20 out of 25 games, with the whole team taking on the underachieving personality of stars Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.
The Pistons were the team that lost to to the Philadelphia 76ers, ending the Sixers’ 26-game losing streak. The Celtics went out and lost to those same Sixers on Friday. So, this one could be interesting.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.
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