Game Preview: Celtics at Pistons
BOSTON – There’s no cure for an NBA team quite like a soft spot on the schedule. The Boston Celtics (6-4), who have won six of their last eight games, will play their second consecutive game against an Eastern Conference bottom-dweller when they take on the Detroit Pistons (1-9) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Boston is fresh off of a dominating performance against Toronto Saturday afternoon in TD Garden. The Celtics blew the Raptors out 107-89 to hand their Atlantic Division foe a seventh loss on the season. Now the C’s will turn their attention to one of the two Eastern Conference teams that has accrued more losses than Toronto this month.
Detroit has been absolutely dreadful this season. There’s no way around that statement. The Pistons have lost more games than any other team in the league and have the fourth-worst point differential in the NBA, at -6.8 PPG. Only three players on Detroit’s roster are scoring in double-figures and only one is grabbing more than 6.2 RPG.
Former Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank is the man running the show in Detroit. He has clearly endured a difficult start to the season, but there is some hope that this young Pistons team is turning things around. They crushed Philadelphia by 18 points Wednesday night on the road and then narrowly lost to Orlando Friday night at home.
While the Pistons are gaining some traction and beginning to compete in games, the Celtics just keep on winning. They have quietly won six of their past eight games and have a red-hot offense that has scored 100.7 PPG over the past three contests.
Boston’s offense has caught fire recently due in large part to the team’s unselfishness. The C’s are sharing the ball about as well as any coach could ask for and are coming off of a 37-assist performance Saturday afternoon against the Pistons. Rajon Rondo, who returned from a one-game absence due to a right ankle sprain, accounted for 20 of those assists.
The Celtics have hit a pretty impressive groove with Rondo running the show. They sputtered out of the gates but have rebounded nicely and are now striking fear into their opponents at both ends of the court. That isn’t good news for a Pistons team that has sputtered for the entire season.
Boston will head into the Palace of Auburn Hills with the goal of continuing their winning ways. Fortunately for the C’s, that shouldn’t be too difficult as they take on yet another underwhelming opponent.
Neither of these teams can claim that they’re great at rebounding. In fact, both can claim that they are the opposite. Boston and Detroit rank 30th and 28th, respectively, in rebounds per game this season.
Why are these teams so poor at rebounding? Well, both teams have only two players on their respective rosters who are attacking the glass with any consistency. Garnett, per usual, is Boston’s leading rebounder with 7.7 per game and Paul Pierce is surprisingly second on the team with an average of 6.2 per game. Monroe is the leading rebounder for Detroit with 9.5 RPG and Jason Maxiell is pulling in 6.2 boards a night.
Those four players are the only guys who will enter this game with rebounding averages higher than 6.0 RPG. That is a stunning statistic.
Monroe is the Focal Point
If you haven't heard of him yet, you should pay attention now. Greg Monroe is one of the most underrated players in the league and is making a strong bid to be an All-Star this season.
Monroe, who scored 15.4 PPG and grabbed 9.8 RPG last season, is putting up 16.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG this season. He has also improved his passing and is averaging 3.4 APG this season.
This kid is a do-it-all center. He is the focal point of Detroit’s offense, as he should be. He should also be the focal point of Boston’s defense tonight. Kevin Garnett and company must give Monroe their utmost attention, or else he could help the Pistons pull off a shocker.
Prime Time for Sully
Boston’s blowout victory over the Raptors allowed Doc Rivers to give ample playing time to rookie Jared Sullinger. Sullinger had seen his playing time decrease over the past week, but he recorded the first double-double of his career against Toronto with 12 points and 11 rebounds off of the bench.
Sully may have a similar situation dropped into his hands tonight in Detroit. As we’ve already covered, the Pistons just aren’t good. They also don’t have any super-athletic or sizable big men who are primed to take advantage of Sullinger in the paint. Boston’s rookie power forward should receive quite a bit of playing time tonight, which may lead to another impressive performance.