Theis, Who Was Questionable To Play, Runs Rampant in Detroit

DETROIT – Daniel Theis was listed as questionable heading into Saturday night’s game in Detroit.

There was nothing questionable about his performance once he stepped onto the court.

Theis nearly logged a career night, falling just two points shy of his career high in scoring with 17 points, and he needed less than 20 minutes of action to do it.

Brad Stevens called Theis’ number with 3:03 remaining in the first quarter. Theis replaced All-Star center Al Horford, and Horford didn’t return to the game until the 2:55 mark of the second quarter. That should tell you all you need to know about what Theis brought to the table.

Baskets? He made them. Rebounds? He grabbed them? Shots? He affected them.

You name it, and Theis did it, all while facing off against arguably the most dominant frontcourt in the NBA to this point of the season in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

“He’s just so smart as a basketball player,” Kyrie Irving said after Boston’s 109-89 win over the Pistons. “Playing overseas and then coming over here and just being a solid, solid piece for us. Coming in, knocking down shots, being able to guard 5s and 4s, being able to communicate on the fly. And most importantly, he’s seasoned.”

Seasoned and cooking to near perfection Saturday night.

Theis made seven of his nine field goal attempts and two of his three 3-pointers in Detroit. He scored his first bucket, a tip-in layup, with 1:50 left in the first quarter. From that moment until the 8:48 mark of the second period, Theis scored or assisted on 16 of Boston’s 20 points.

The big man’s impact carried over to the defensive side of the ball as well. Irving alluded to the fact that Theis is versatile enough defend both 4s and 5s, but he’s also proven to be athletic enough to defend perimeter players. He showcased all of that ability against the Pistons.

Although he did not tally a block or a steal, Theis was always in the right place at the right time and consistently affected Detroit’s shots. On one possession, he’d shut down Andre Drummond’s post-up attempt, and on the next, he’d masterfully trail a guard and prevent a shot from even being released.

Theis played so great at both ends during that stretch, making six of his seven shots and hauling in seven boards, that Stevens just couldn’t take him out. By the time he did, Boston had outscored Detroit by a cool 16 points in just over 12 minutes of playing time.

It was easy to forget that Theis brought this level of play to the Celtics last season before he suffered a meniscus injury in March. He was the best two-way big man off the bench for the No. 2 seed in the East.

But following Boston’s ensuing run to the brink of the NBA Finals last season, and the returns of Irving and Gordon Hayward this season, not many talked about the return of Theis. He flew under the radar, and rightfully so.

That might not last much longer.

Theis is beginning to look like the unknown German who last season raised eyebrows around the league during the first five months of his NBA career. Every team in the league would love to get their hands on an athletic, 6-foot-8 forward who can come off the bench and defend all five positions while stretching the floor and throwing down alley-oops at the other end.

The Celtics already have one.

Following the game, Theis was unavailable to comment about his 17-point, eight-rebound performance, as he was being evaluated for a right heel injury. His health status moving forward, yet again, is questionable.

His ability? Not so much.

It’s not a problem that Theis couldn’t speak to the media after the game. His game spoke for itself.

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