Pistons vs Celtics Game Preview - Feb. 19, 2012
The Detroit Pistons seem to have turned their season around behind tremendous improvements on both sides of the court.
The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, suddenly find themselves in need of a spark.
After prevailing at TD Garden earlier this week, the Pistons look to add to the Celtics woes as the teams conclude their regular-season series Sunday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Detroit (10-22), which started 4-20, has since won six of eight - including Wednesday's 98-88 victory at Boston (15-14). The Pistons are averaging 96.1 points and holding opponents to just 44.0 percent from the floor during their run - significantly better than their season marks of 88.6 and 47.4, respectively.
"There's been a lot of improvement since Christmas," said rookie Brandon Knight. "Our offense has been pretty good all along, but we're playing a lot better on the defensive end."
The Celtics, in contrast, haven't been able to get much going of late. Boston has dropped four of five while managing just 84.8 points per contest.
One night after falling to Detroit, coach Doc Rivers' team opened a five-game trek with Thursday's 89-80 loss to Chicago. The Celtics were outscored 29-21 over the final 12 minutes and outrebounded 52-37 for the game.
"Fourth quarters have been our quarters," Ray Allen said. "We get to the fourth quarter and regardless of what's happened in the game we pull it out. We execute offensively. We know who we're going to scoring wise. But right now it's up in the air."
After scoring a career-high 35 points Wednesday, Rajon Rondo had 17 against the Bulls. Kevin Garnett, who sat against the Pistons with a hip flexor, returned to post 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics may need to pick up the pace if they hope to keep up with Detroit. The Pistons are coming off their highest scoring output of the season, defeating Sacramento 114-108 on Friday.
"We continued to fight," coach Lawrence Frank, who watched his team battle back from an 11-point deficit, told the Pistons' official website. "That's an encouraging thing. We're going to have to continue to raise our level of play on both ends, but from a standpoint of having resolve, we're getting more and more along the lines of establishing that we're not just going away. We're going to just keep fighting."
Rodney Stuckey led the way with a season-best 36 points while Tayshaun Prince scored 22 to go along with 10 boards. Knight recorded 23 points and dished out a season-high 10 assists for his second double-double.
"I love playing with Brandon, and he is improving every day," said Stuckey, who's averaging 28.0 points on 56.3 percent shooting in his last three games. "We're going to have a lot of years together, and it is only going to get better."
Detroit has gone just 4-11 over its last 15 regular-season meetings with Boston. The Pistons, who have split their last four home matchups with the Celtics, took the last one 104-92 on Dec. 29, 2010, overcoming 33 points from Paul Pierce.
Detroit hasn't defeated Boston twice in the same season since taking all four games in 2006-07.