The Celtics began the game knowing full-well how difficult this match-up will be. Many fans will remember their last game against the Pistons brought about 19 lead changes, a total of 9 ties, and the (however temporary) most clutch play thus far by Horford and the Celtics. For those that don’t remember and only saw the highlights, it was the game that Crowder had missed a key basket at the end of regulation, but Marcus Smart had miraculously kept alive by tipping off the boards to Al Horford.
Horford not only made the layup with 1.3 seconds left to go, but he then completed his masterful return with the ensuing block that ended the game on the other end. Oh yea, did we not mention that this was his return after going through concussion protocol and having to miss games at the beginning of the year? The Celtics had gone 4-5 without him in the lineup, and are now 6-3 with him. Needless to say, though, the end of this game set the table for a great lead-in to their 2nd matchup.
The Pistons began the game at 9-10, just outside of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East; the Celtics are sitting in the 6th spot.
THE FIRST QUARTER
The game began with Amir Johnson on fire. Just look at this string of plays: he made a baseline drive to the rim and was fouled while making this jump-layup. He made the free throw, played some solid defense, and then followed with 2 offensive rebounds in the same (scoreless) possession immediately following. I was ready to declare it the game of his Celtics career, but alas he finished with just a very good showing of 11 points of 5 rebounds in 15 minutes.
Jaylen Brown had a great attempt (keyword) early, as he tried to mimic his first ever preseason shot – the fadeaway baseline jumper. Despite the miss at the time, you still have to love seeing a rookie with the confidence to shoot this shot. After this attempt, he had a beautiful delivery to Olynyk cutting towards the hoop, which put the Celtics down just 1 with 7.9 seconds left in the 1st. The D let themselves down and gave up another 2 before ending the quarter, though, and the Green Team went into the 2nd down 31-28
THE SECOND QUARTER
The Pistons unfortunately hadn’t been slowed by our D in the 2nd. They hit an early 3 that had put them up, at this point, 37-30. More pressingly, however, the Pistons had now made 4/7 from 3-point land and our perimeter defense was nowhere to be found. Marcus Morris then started showing Boston what he’s capable of, as he had made multiple beautiful shots against the green defenders. If you ask anyone that watched that game, however, his best shot came against Terry Rozier as he pulled a step back DEEP 2 to pull his team ahead 45-40.
Rozier, for his part, had later dished a beautiful assist to Amir Johnson underneath to scrape the team back within 1!… But…. then followed this up by failing to slow the ball, and instead choosing to drive to the rim during a 4-on-1.
Fortunately, the Green have another little man by the name of Isaiah Thomas. IT maintained body control during his drives to the basket and then hit another 3 to get his team within shouting distance before half, at 53-52. Ultimately, the C’s went into the locker room down 59-53.
THE THIRD QUARTER
Marcus Smart continued to shoot well to begin the 3rd, as he brought the team to 63-58, but couldn’t manage to slow down Tobias Harris (the Pistons leading scorer). And to think, all of this despite a Brad Stevens near sideline meltdown over a very obvious goaltend (he had a case but was never rewarded), but even this didn’t motivate the team enough.
Perhaps the best play came when Al Horford drove to the hoop, dished to Jae Crowder, who then skipped it to IT for the 3. This is the prototypical Brad Stevens offense, and he, along with all of Boston, would love to see more of it. While IT continued to take it to the rim with authority against Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley struggled to make his mark made during the game. AB finally made his first shot of the game (obv. a 3) with 5:15 left in the 3rd.
Ish Smith, after coming from the D-League and bouncing around the NBA for 7 years, made two surprising shots during this quarter; effectively validating his career in these (meaningless) eyes. IT continued to play great, but when a team gives up 92 points by the end of the 3rd, they’re not very likely to win. The Celtics went into the final frame down 92-84.
THE FOURTH QUARTER
The 4th brought more of the same for the Celtics defense. Marcus Morris and Ish Smith led the Pistons dominance for much of the quarter, draining heartbreaking 3’s left and right. The game started to take a turn during one play during the 4th, when Marcus Morris slammed a dunk all alone on the other side of the court – the Pistons were now up 10. Mind you, the Celtics haven’t had the lead since the 1st quarter and had plenty of reason to start feeling bad for themselves or accepting defeat. If you’ve been paying attention, though, you know that this team reacted in the opposite manner.
Kelly Olynyk had the best game he’s had all season, and finished with 26 points on 7 of 9 shooting by the end of the game. Terry Rozier added a cunning drive to the basket while hanging in the air to take and make a 3 point play in crunch time – which officially gave the Celtics the lead for the first time since those 3 points Amir Johnson scored in the 1st quarter. This proved to be a mere mirage, however, as the Celtics D continued it’s porous ways and allowed “big shot after big shot”, as Mike Gorman had put it, to Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris.
The Celtics continued their battle and Marcus Smart had made a flashy tip slam off of Jae Crowder’s 3 (video posted below), essentially propelling the team’s offense. Avery Bradley then made a flurry of three straight 3’s in the final minutes, and Jae Crowder managed to connect both of his free throws after the Pistons had desperately fouled while still in control of the lead (much to Van Gundy’s dismay). The Celtics eventually denied the inbound pass from Marcus Harris and Smart took the ball to the hoop for an easy layup, pulling the Celtics to a technically manageable deficit at 118-114.
While all of this made for an exciting finish, the team eventually succumbed to the loss many folks had already decided was inevitable. The Celtics had fought for much of the game and were able to make some clutch shots, however, the defensive effort had been questionable from the jump – and ultimately cost the C’s the game.
Final score – Piston: 121 Celtics: 114
- Kelly Olynyk had the best game of his young season – finishing with 26 points and shooting 3/4 from 3. His 3 rebounds added to his +9 rating overall for the game
- Amir Johnson cooled off quickly, but still managed to snag 5 rebounds and finished with 11 points in 15 minutes.
- ISAIAH THOMAS. He continues to go off, and finished shooting 50% from the field tonight (10/20) with 27 points and 4 assists
- Basically everything the Celtics did on Defense
- Allow the Pistons starting 5 to shoot 57% with a team total of 89 points with 5 minutes left in 4th
- Defense gave up 20 points only 8 minutes into the game
- Defense gave up 92 points with an entire quarter to play in the game