Game Preview: Pistons at Celtics
BOSTON - Paul Pierce, who missed Monday’s game due to personal reasons, will be a game-time decision when the Boston Celtics (38-36) host the Detroit Pistons (25-50) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden. The C's have lost two games in a row and played Monday's game without both Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Things should take a step back to normalcy tonight if Pierce is, in fact, back in the lineup. Boston's starting five struggled without him Monday night, as that group totaled just 46 points and allowed Minnesota's offense to run free.
Pierce’s presence would surely help the Celtics improve in both of those areas. He is by far the team’s leading scorer with this season 18.8 points per game and has been the top assist man since Rajon Rondo went down on Jan. 25. Pierce also is one of the best small forwards in the league when it comes to team defense.
Boston would like to have all of those skills available tonight against a Pistons team that has dominated the C’s this season. Detroit is 2-0 against Boston in 2012-13, with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points per game.
The Pistons have scored with ease against the Celtics this season. They scored 103 points in both meetings while hitting exactly half of their shots. Six of their players scored in double-figures in both contests, led by an average of 17.5 points per game from center Greg Monroe.
Detroit’s offense has scored with ease but the real reason why it is 2-0 against Boston is its defense. The Celtics have struggled to put the ball through the basket against this young Pistons team. The Celts have hit just 41.6 percent of their shots against Detroit this season. None of their players scored more than 16 points in either of those two games.
Those numbers would lead one to believe that the Pistons will enter tonight’s game with quite a bit of confidence. One blowout victory could be a fluke, but two of them begins a trend.
That being said, those blowouts should also give Boston extra motivation as it heads into this game. The C’s are looking to snap a two-game losing streak and redeem themselves against the Pistons. Their chances of accomplishing both of those goals would be much higher with their captain on the floor.
Defending the Paint
If you watched Monday’s loss to the Timberwolves, you saw Nikola Pekovic have a field day. He was dominant on the block while the C’s had no answer for him. As Doc Rivers put it, “We had no one that could deal with that big monster they had down there.”
No one on Detroit’s roster is as large as Pekovic but the Pistons do have some serious interior talent. Monroe is one of the top young centers in the league and has been successful against the C’s throughout his career, even when Garnett is in the lineup. Additionally, rookie Andre Drummond scores the majority of his points in the paint and is a rebounding machine.
The Celtics will not win this game if they don’t improve their interior play. Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Shavlik Randolph need to play at a high level.
Keep Avery Hot
March was not a good month for Avery Bradley. He shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from the field in 16 games.
April seems to be a different story. Bradley looked like a new player Monday night in Minnesota as he scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He shot just 1-of-5 from 3-point range but did hit six mid-range jumpers.
That is the Bradley the Celtics need if they’re going to make a serious playoff push. The team needs to keep him hot in game No. 2 of April.
Keep Them off the Line
One thing that Rivers will hammer home to his team prior to tonight’s game is that it must keep the Pistons off of the free-throw line. Detroit has attempted a whopping 57 free throws in these teams’ two games and it capitalized on 43 of them. The Celtics are coming off of a game in which they allowed another opponent to succeed at the line as well, as Minnesota shot 25-of-27 from the line Monday night.
Those types of numbers will not win games for Boston. The Celtics must keep the Pistons off of the line tonight, or else they may be staring down a third consecutive loss.