It’s amazing how beautiful something can be when you haven’t seen it in a while. Granted, it’s not like we’re so used to seeing Al Horford in a Celtics uniform that we’re taken back to some bucolic childhood memory seeing him back in green, but his being on the floor does remind us that this Celtics can be pretty good. They can, however, still be pretty bad, which they were for enough time to make this grind of a game interesting for all 48 minutes. Mind you, I didn’t say it was entertaining for all 48, but it was interesting nonetheless… and in the end Horford’s big start and finish to the game, along with the usual late Isaiah Thomas heroics, were enough to make the Celtics the first team to escape a trip into Detroit with a win this season.
The Celtics opened the first on a 7-2 run that included a 3 from the newly returned Jae Crowder. Al Horford chipped in a 3 of his own later in the quarter to help hammer the point home that the Celtics are full strength. The first quarter basically was the Celtics going up by 6 or 7… Detroit tying the game… Boston taking another 6 or 7 point lead… Detroit tying it… and thanks to an Isaiah Thomas 3 at the buzzer, the Celtics going into the 2nd quarter up 7. Horford and Crowder had 5 each in the quarter. Horford had 5 boards as well.
The Celtics (well, everyone except Horford) went cold in the 2nd half, shooting just 42%. Al scored 7 points on 3-3 fg, but everyone else scored 13 on 5-16 shooting. The Pistons, meanwhile, got 15 combined from Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris as Detroit actually took a 1 point lead thanks to a 13-4 run in the middle of the quarter. Isaiah scored four straight, though, to end the 2nd to give Boston a 3 point halftime lead.
The runs continued in the third. Boston pushed the lead up to 9 with a 7-2 run out of the gate. The Pistons promptly went on an 11-0 run to take the lead mid-way through the quarter. It got worse from there as the bad Celtics let Morris and Ish Smith go nuts (they each had 8 in the quarter) thanks to a series of blown assignments. Andre Drummond got going in the quarter as well, scoring 8 of his own and grabbing 9 rebounds just in the 3rd alone. Meanwhile, the Celtics checked in with 32% shooting in the 3rd, which helped Detroit take a 2 point lead going into the 4th.
A back-and-forth final quarter saw no real separation from either team, though the Celtics did come back to hold a lead for most of it. The Pistons defended their basket with ferocity, making Isaiah Thomas’ life hell. That is until a drive with just over a minute to go to answer a big Drummond alley oop to take a 90-98 lead. He attacked again and drew a foul with :30 left. Two free throws put the C’s up three but Tobias Harris tied it up with a 3 on the other end. The Celtics had no shot clock when Isaiah drove and kicked it to Crowder, who missed a 3 in the right corner. It was kept alive by Marcus Smart and then Horford flicked it in with just over a second left. The Pistons had one more shot, but Horford blocked Aron Baynes’ attempt to tie it and come away with the 94-92 win.
Let’s start with Horford, who finished the night with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assist, and 3 blocks, including that monster block on Baynes at the end. He was a team-high +17 on the night in nearly 34 minutes. He provided the exact kind of spark you’d expect.
Jae Crowder’s numbers weren’t as gaudy, but he played some pretty tight defense all night long and was a +3.
IT, of course, had a monster sequence at the end in a tough game. Detroit really wasn’t letting him do his thing, but when the C’s needed it most, he hit the layup and two free throws. Those were his only 4th quarter points, but it was perfectly timed.
I don’t know how many people will talk about Terry Rozier, but he led the Celtics with 5 points and 4 rebounds in the 4th quarter… coming up big in a tight spot.
Kelly Olynyk played :54 in the second half. Detroit was just too big and too strong for Olynyk, who just could not help at all in the rebounding department. He was a -11 on a night that, save for a couple of baskets early on, was mostly forgettable.
Amir Johnson was almost as bad. He was a -10, collecting just 3 rebounds for the Celtics. He was credited with 1 turnover, but I feel like he was responsible for more than that.
Marcus Smart was 1-9 from the field and 0-5 from 3.
IT to Horford pick-and-pop
Didn’t take long for IT and Al to get back at it in the pick-and-pop! pic.twitter.com/4jgBlmwveU
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 20, 2016
IT beats the halftime buzzer.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 20, 2016
Horford flicks in the game-winning shot
Horford’s game-saving block
Al Horford game-saving block pic.twitter.com/K6F5ftI8xU
— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) November 20, 2016
There was a long stretch of ugly play in the middle of a good first quarter and good ending, but Detroit is a good team that hadn’t lost or even given up 90 points at home so far this season. The Celtics ended both of those streaks tonight, so that’s something to be happy about.