BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas couldn’t buy a bucket Wednesday night, but for three quarters, it didn’t matter.
The Boston Celtics enjoyed a balanced scoring effort that helped them enter the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead over the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden despite Thomas starting the game 1 for 15.
Yet in the final quarter, the roles flipped, as the rest of the C’s went cold while Thomas finally found his range. Yet Thomas’ 15 fourth-quarter points weren’t enough to stave off Detroit, as several missed free throws and poor execution down the stretch sealed Boston’s fate in a 99-94 loss.
Thomas led Boston with 22 points and 10 assists in the stop-and-start, foul-filled affair. Amir Johnson posted an impressive double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), while, Reggie Jackson paced Detroit with 24 points.
The Pistons outscored the Celtics 33-19 in the fourth quarter to drop Boston to 19-16.
Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson
The Celtics’ starting unit continued its strong play with Kelly Olynyk on the floor.
The Canada native got the nod over Jared Sullinger for the second straight night, and the starting five delivered again, scoring 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting (71 percent) before Marcus Smart checked into the game as the first substitute.
Boston finished with 33 points in the quarter (they dropped 37 in the first frame Monday) thanks to 10 points from Olynyk, who also beat the buzzer with a deep 3-pointer.
Boston’s bench didn’t exactly pick up where the starters had left off.
The Celtics’ reserves struggled mightily in the second quarter, settling for long-range jumpers and not making too many, as Smart, Sullinger and R.J. Hunter combined to go 2 for 11 in the first half. Sullinger tried to channel an old teammate late in the second but picked up his third foul instead.
On the other end, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored nine points in the span of one minute and six seconds three consecutive 3-pointers to help Detroit get back in it.
The game slowed to a snail’s pace in the second half as both teams racked up fouls at a high rate.
The C’s managed went 5 for 22 in the third quarter but actually managed to extend their lead from seven to nine. The difference? Foul shooting, as Boston went 10 for 10 from the charity stripe while Detroit hit just 5 of 10.
BEATING THE DRUM
Boston’s bigs did a good job containing double-double machine Andre Drummond.
Drummond played limited minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls, and when he returned in the third quarter, the Celtics made them beat him from the free throw line. Here’s how that went:
Drummond managed just 13 points and a season-low five rebounds after posting 22 points and 22 rebounds the last time the two teams met.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Johnson did work on the defensive end, too, as evidenced by this rejection of Eryan Ilyasova in the first quarter:
The Celtics hit the road Thursday to take on the Chicago Bulls, who are on quite the roll of late. Jimmy Butler and Co. will enter Thursday with a 21-12 record and own a five-game winning streak. Tipoff at United Center is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images