Game Preview: Celtics at Pistons

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – Painful memories will be refreshed for the Boston Celtics (20-19) when they visit the Detroit Pistons (14-25) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Celtics were embarrassed by the Pistons earlier this season during a 103-83 loss on November 18 in Detroit. All five of Detroit’s starters in that game scored in double-figures and the team shot 54.2 percent from the field.

Boston’s defense has been on a drastic incline in terms of efficiency since then. January has been a phenomenal month in terms of defense, as the Celtics’ opponents have scored just 88.2 points per game and shot only 41.8 percent from the field. None of Boston’s nine opponents in January have scored more than 100 points.

The defense, however, hasn’t been Boston’s issue. It’s the offense that is causing problems. The Celtics themselves have averaged 88.5 PPG and shot 43.9 percent from the floor over their past two games, both of which were losses.

Paul Pierce has been the main culprit for Boston’s poor shooting. Pierce made only 32.7 percent (three of 18) of his 3-point attempts over the last three games. Those numbers are far below Pierce’s season averages, but Doc Rivers doesn’t have a problem with the shots that his captain is taking.

“He’s just not making shots right now,” Rivers said of Pierce. “He’s getting a lot of them, I can say that, but he’s not making them. So as a coach you just keep looking at the attempts, and I thought overall they were pretty good attempts.”

Rivers did, however, give a hint as to where we may see Pierce attempting those shots during Sunday’s game and in the foreseeable future.

“I still would like him in the post a little bit more,” Rivers said. “I think that’s his spot now.”

Speaking of the post, that’s where the Celtics were burned by the Pistons back in November. Detroit’s top post presence, Greg Monroe, scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in that game. Monroe was the largest reason why the Pistons won the points in the paint battle by a count of 44-30.

The first meeting between these two teams was won in the paint. It resulted in a blowout victory for the Pistons and sent the C’s back home with rosy cheeks. Boston will be looking to return the favor on Sunday as it looks to end a two-game losing streak.

Make Detroit Work

The Celtics simply weren’t themselves back on November 18. They finished that contest with a season-low 12 assists, 10 of which were dished out by Rajon Rondo. Want to know how poor that is for Boston? It averages 23.1 assists per game as a team this season. Clearly the C’s were not up to snuff against Detroit the first time around.

The odds are that the Pistons are going to see a much different Celtics team tonight. Boston has been rolling in January and it’s been sharing the ball very well. It has had a solid month in terms of assists by averaging 22.9 helpers a game in January. The C’s might not reach that number tonight, but they sure will need a lot more than 12 assists to win this game.

Body up on Monroe

We said it back in November and we’ll say it again now: If you haven’t heard of Greg Monroe, you should have by now.

Monroe has been playing fantastic basketball this season and heads into tonight’s game averaging 15.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG. He outperformed both of those numbers against the Celtics back in November by racking up 20 points and 13 rebounds in less than 32 minutes of action.

We all know that the Celtics don’t play a true center for the majority of their games, but someone will need to step up against Detroit’s big man tonight. Kevin Garnett will be the man who gets the first crack at it.

Rebounding Rookies

Two big men who dropped farther than many expected them to on draft night will meet on Sunday. Jared Sullinger of the Celtics and Andre Drummond of the Pistons are showing everyone why they should have been selected much higher than they were.

The C’s chose Sullinger with the 21st overall pick and he has far outperformed that selection this season. He has been one of Boston’s top players over the past month. Sullinger is averaging 8.0 PPG and 8.7 RPG during the month of January. He has two games in which he has grabbed at least 15 rebounds, including Friday night’s loss to the Bulls.

Drummond is putting up similar numbers for the Pistons. He is averaging 8.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG during January and has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in three of his last six games.

These two players are incredibly similar in terms of statistics despite the fact that they have very different levels of athletic abilities. Sullinger uses his smarts to succeed, while Drummond relies on athleticism. Both tactics are successful, as Sullinger and Drummond rank 17th and fourth, respectively, when it comes to rebounds per 48 minutes.