Game Preview: Pistons at Celtics
While the losses continue to pile up for the slumping Detroit Pistons, they are still in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
And they know they need to turn things around quickly if they hope to get in.
Looking to snap its longest road losing streak in three seasons, Detroit tries to continue its recent success against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
The Pistons have struggled mightily over the last three-plus weeks, losing nine of 11 while allowing 107.5 points per game. Despite its woes, though, Detroit is just a few games behind Atlanta for the East's eighth and final postseason berth.
"There are a lot of young guys and a lot of players on this team that haven't been able to experience the postseason," said forward Josh Smith, averaging 14.3 points while shooting just 28.8 percent (15 for 52) over the last three games. "They won't understand it until they get in and they get that feeling. That's when that addiction starts to creep in."
The Pistons are trying to avoid a third consecutive defeat after falling 114-101 at Minnesota on Friday. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 15 rebounds, but Detroit never recovered after getting outscored 39-21 in the first quarter.
The Pistons are just 6-32 when giving up more than 100 points.
"Our lack of defense, especially in that first half, dictated our offense," said coach John Loyer, who is 3-9 since replacing Mo Cheeks on Feb. 9. "It's pretty hard to really have great pace and play with offensive pace if you're so lackadaisical on the defensive end, which we were."
Friday's loss was Detroit's eighth in a row on the road, its longest such skid since dropping 11 straight away from home in 2010-11.
"Any time you're going to make a push, you've got to string wins together," Loyer told the team's official website. "But you've got to take them one at a time. Your tendency sometimes when you win a game is maybe you don't come back with the same fire."
The Pistons have taken six of seven from the Celtics, including both meetings this season. Detroit won 87-77 at home Nov. 3 before pulling out a 107-106 victory in Boston on Dec. 18 behind 28 points and 14 assists from Brandon Jennings.
The Celtics beat Brooklyn 91-84 on Friday for their second win in nine games. Rajon Rondo committed seven of his team's season-high 28 turnovers but also had 20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
"We shared the ball pretty well with our team, and theirs," coach Brad Stevens said after watching his team commit twice as many turnovers as Brooklyn, "so, overall, it was at least a step in the right direction."
Rondo, who averaged 10.2 points in his first 12 games back from a torn ACL, has since scored 17.2 per game over his last five.
"He did a tremendous job coming into the season working on his jumper constantly," teammate Jared Sullinger said. "Now he's starting to become the Rondo we all know every day."
Boston has won five of six against fellow East foes, with its only loss coming to conference-leading Indiana on March 1.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley will miss an 11th consecutive game due to a sprained ankle.