The Celtics are great at jumping out to big leads, mostly in part to their stiffling defense and streaky shooting, but most of the time they have to fight to hold onto the leads they build, and Thursday night versus the Pistons was more of the same. Boston, who at one point was up 24 and led by 18 at the end of three, watched the Pistons reel off 35 fourth quarter points, but the Celtics were game and withstood the Detroit onslaught.
Boston was able to build their first half lead with excellent defense, jumping out to a 27-16 lead after one quarter. The second quarter was more of the same; Boston won the quarter 29-20 and was up 56-36 at the half, a lead that was impressive considering how well the Detroit starters have played this season. Detroit woke up at the half, finally taking a quarter from the Celtics and giving themselves a fighters chance to stay in the game, which is exactly what they did.
Reggie Jackson led the way for the visiting Pistons, scoring 17 points and adding seven assists. Impressive big man Andre Drummond contributed 16 points, 13 rebounds, and just one turnover in 33 minutes, great production for the young and continuing to improve Drummond. Brandon Jennings, who the Pistons were excited to be getting back from injury, hasn't found his groove yet. That trend continued last night as Jennings finished with five points on 2-8 shooting in just under 20 minutes; Jenning finished -14 for the night, the worst on the Detroit roster.
All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas led the way for Boston, finishing the night with 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and just two turnovers in 33 minutes; Thomas also finished +14 for the night, tops on the Celtics roster. Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, and Avery Bradley also finished the night with double figures. Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, and Jonas Jerebko finished a combined +12 with 42 points, 24 rebounds, 11 assists, and just four turnovers. Brad Stevens wants consistency and efficiency from his bench, and that is exactly what he got against Detroit, a team that isn't strong on the bench abd must win games with their starters.
Great teams have balanced scoring, a strong bench, good defensive rebounding, and they keep the turnovers below 10 per game. Other than the slight turnover problem the Celtics are facing, they are doing well in all the other categories needed to be a contender. Now they just need to find a big time scorer, preferably a big man, and Boston will be officially back as a contender.
Boston (29-22) will travel to Cleveland on Friday to face off against Lebron James and the Cavs, a good test to see how far they've come since the playoffs last season. Detroit (26-24) will head to New York to take on the Knicks Thursday night.
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