Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Thirteen days after surrendering their season high of 118 in a 10-point loss to Detroit back at the Garden, the Celtics gave up a season low while putting down the Pistons, 91-81, yesterday.
The C’s clogged up the painted area in Detroit’s new downtown arena, holding the Pistons to 33.3 percent from the floor and preventing a second Andre Drummond explosion against them. The Motor City center had 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting in Boston on Nov. 27, but here he had six points on just 1-for-5 from the floor. That’s because he had company. A lot of it.
“Quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens on how much the C’s changed the defensive approach from the last meeting. “I thought, hey, they missed some open shots that they made at our place, so maybe that feels better than it was; we’ll go back and look and see if it was effective or not. But it felt like we did a much better job at least protecting the paint tonight then we did in Game 1.”
The Pistons got into the Garden lane for 54 points two weeks ago. Yesterday they scored just 26 there.
The idea was to slow the flow of lobs to Drummond, who still made his presence felt with 15 rebounds. Aron Baynes got as physical as possible with his old teammate, and he had help.
The Celtics took care of business yesterday in Detroit, beating the Pistons by 10 and handing them their 7th straight loss. Detroit’s last win came against the Celtics two weeks ago, and they’ve gone into a tailspin ever since.
Boston’s defense held Detroit to 33.3 percent shooting and limited Andre Drummond’s effectiveness. He scored 26 points and grabbed 22 rebounds during their last meeting, but only scored six points on 1/5 shooting yesterday.
Aron Baynes was huge (insert “all of Australia” joke) in their defensive game plan. After seeing only 13 minutes in the last Celtics-Pistons matchup, he played 27 minutes and bothered Drummond throughout the game. Brad Stevens said he wanted to limit Detroit’s alley-oops, and with Baynes controlling the paint, Boston successfully prevented shots at the rim in pick-and-rolls.
While the defense carried them yesterday, the offense has been the bright spot over the past few weeks. The Celtics have a 114.8 offensive rating over the last nine games, a mark that would rank second in the league behind Golden State.
Jayson Tatum hit a clutch three with two minutes remaining after Detroit cut the 16 point deficit to five. He ranks top five in three-point percentage and clutch-time shooting. Before the game, Stan Van Gundy spoke highly of Tatum.
“OK, I’m not surprised,” Van Gundy said. “I thought he was the best prospect in the draft. He’s got all the tools. But what’s changed . . . anybody who says they’re not surprised by his 3-point shooting based on what he did in college is lying. I mean, if there’s somebody who said, ‘Oh, look, I knew he’d knock down 50 percent of his 3’s,’ even though he made 32 percent of them from the college line, they’re lying. And I’m sure there’s somebody saying that, that they knew. But they’re lying.
“But everything else was there — his ability to put the ball on the floor and get shots. He’s got a real poise to him. He’s better defensively than people think. He’s long. He’s really, really good, and I’m sorry he’s there for the next however many years.”
Cracked Brad Stevens when told of Van Gundy’s comments, “He’s probably called me a liar before. No, I mean there’s only so many people that shoot it at that level. Even though he’s shooting it great, obviously that level is reserved for great, great shooters. So you wouldn’t predict that with any young guy.”
Stan: “You’re a liar if you thought Tatum would be 50% three point shooter.” Brad: “Shut up, I knew.”
Page 2: Where Gordon Hayward Won’t Be Rushed Back
“He’s got to find any motivation that he can find. … We’re certainly not going to put limitations on what he tries to do,” Stevens said before a meeting with the Detroit Pistons. “That being said, we’re not planning on him. All (of the talk from Hayward) is really good because it indicates that he feels really good about where he’s headed and he should. And that he’s going to be fully healthy when he does get back out on the court, which he should. So that’s the positive of it but we don’t want to put that on him. And so we’re assuming that that will not be the case.”
Nobody has ruled out a return, but the Celtics have consistently said they don’t expect one.
Hayward, who broke and dislocated his ankle on opening night, recently told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach that playing again this season is “definitely in the back of my mind.” But Hayward also said he wouldn’t return unless he feels “1,000 percent” confident in his health.
After Himmelsbach wrote this wonderful piece on Gordon Hayward, the Celtics mediasphere went crazy with the “Hayward might return this season” headlines. He said playing again this season is in the back of his mind.
Of course it is. He wants to contribubte to this successful team, and mentally, he hopes to return to action as quickly as possible. But I wouldn’t expect Hayward to return until next season, as the Celtics have no reason to rush him back.
We know how great this team has played in his absence. Tatum and Brown are thriving, and Kyrie is playing like a superstar point guard. Guys like Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis have made unexpected contributions. They have the NBA’s best record and arguably the brightest future of any franchise.
There’s so much organizational momentum, and the only thing that would kill that momentum is Hayward returning too soon and reinjuring his ankle. Yes, that’s the darkest timeline, but it’s possible. Grant Hill’s ankle injuries plagued his career, even after extensive precaution. If a star player returns from a gruesome injury, but isn’t 100 percent healthy, it can destroy a team, expecially with Hayward and his $30 million annual salary.
Let’s be clear, if he regained strength in his leg, participated in practice, played in a few G-League games, and shows all signs that he’s 100 percent healthy, I’d want to see him back. But for Danny Ainge, winning the championship this season isn’t the ultimate goal, he wants to build a roster that can contend for the next decade.
Tatum and Brown will benefit from increased minutes in the playoffs. It’s looking like the Celtics will reach the conference finals (at least) without Hayward. If he returns next season, 100 percent healthy, he’s the last piece to the championship puzzle. Until then, there’s no reason to take risks with him.
The Rest of the Links:
Boston Globe: Hayward Still Hopes to Return This Season
MassLive: Defensive Adjustments Slow Down Detroit