Pistons vs. Celtics Game Preview - Dec. 29, 2010

Kevin Garnett has been enjoying a nice revival for the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics, looking healthier - and posting better numbers - than he did last season.

The last time he faced the Detroit Pistons, it was his prolific trash-talking that got most of the attention.

The Celtics finish their three-game road trip Wednesday night with their first matchup against the Pistons since Garnett's public spat with Charlie Villanueva.

After battling knee problems for parts of the last two years, Garnett is averaging 15.4 points and 9.8 rebounds - up from 14.3 and 7.3 last season - and his 14 double-doubles are already more than the 10 he had in 69 games in 2009-10.

He had a game-high 22 points to help Boston (24-5) win 109-86 in Detroit on Nov. 2, but his on-court comments to Villanueva made bigger headlines. Villanueva, who has no hair due to a medical condition known as alopecia universalis, said on Twitter that Garnett called him a "cancer patient."

Garnett responded in a statement, saying he told Villanueva he was "cancerous to your team and our league." Celtics coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, said players shouldn't reveal what is said on the court.

"I actually heard what Kevin said. I was right there, what he really said is in the statement," Rivers said. "I don't like the whole tweeting thing. I'm going to state that as well. Guys talk on the court. It doesn't mean they should or shouldn't. The fact that we're talking about this, it's just silly. ... We had a hell of a game (Nov. 2) and we should be talking about basketball."

Garnett has provided a distinct basketball advantage for Boston against the Pistons lately. The Celtics have won the last eight meetings in which the power forward has suited up by an average of 14.5 points, losing the two he missed due to injury in that stretch.

The Celtics have other health concerns - especially involving star point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained left ankle Tuesday in Indiana.

Thanks to a 29-16 fourth-quarter edge, Boston still bounced back after its 14-game winning streak was snapped on Christmas in Orlando. In the 95-83 win over the Pacers, Paul Pierce had 21 points and seven assists, leading seven Celtics who scored at least eight points.

"The winning track is always a good track to be on," Pierce said. "You don't want to be on that train when you're losing and you're going downhill fast. I don't think we've been playing great. We can play a lot better."

It's hard to imagine how Boston could improve defensively after holding its last five opponents to 90 or fewer points. Indiana leading scorer Danny Granger was 5 of 21 from the field Tuesday.

The Pistons (10-21) have averaged 87.3 points in their last 11 meetings with Boston, and they've dropped their first two games after Christmas. After Sunday's 95-92 overtime defeat to Chicago, they lost 105-100 at Charlotte on Monday.

Detroit never fully recovered after the Bobcats began the second quarter on a 24-2 run, although coach John Kuester was pleased with his team's late comeback attempt, which included 17 second-half points from Villanueva.

Villanueva finished with 25 on 10-of-14 shooting, while Chris Wilcox added a season-high 15 - nine in the final 13 minutes - off the bench.

"I thought the energy of the second group that we put in for the second half was great," Kuester said.