Pistons stop Celtics cold, end win streak at 8
DETROIT — The Celtics had every chance to steal this win, even against a motivated team that had lost its previous six games. The Detroit Pistons showed they might not be able to hold a lead after playing so well in the first three quarters.
With the next three days off after Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens decided to play his frontline players extended minutes in hopes of a comeback. In one particular instance, he called a timeout to set up Kyrie Irving for a driving layup, one he finishes routinely.
Irving drove, laid the ball up against big man Jon Leuer, and the ball rolled out of the basket. Irving simply shook his head. The Celtics blew a plethora of chances to extend their winning streak to nine, and finally had to accept they weren’t good enough in a 113-104 loss at Little Caesars Arena.
Boston played behind most of the night but then took a brief 66-63 lead in the third before the Pistons exploded for a 17-4 run. The second half featured the same offensive ineptitude the Celtics displayed in their first 20 games, mostly with missed open shots.
For example, the Celtics shot 31.2 percent in the second half and missed 14 of 18 3-pointers. Marcus Morris, the Celtics’ most consistent shooter, missed all four his 3-point attempts in the second half, all of them uncontested.
The Pistons weren’t much better after that third-quarter spurt but they didn’t have to be. They had already built a double-digit lead. The Celtics left Detroit disappointed because of the wasted opportunities. They said they were tired after a back-t0-back and three games in three cities in four nights, but they did not offer that as an excuse.
“Not many teams score what they score [Saturday] have a chance at beating us,” Irving said. “But the amount of shots that we missed, the breakdowns we had on defense, not many teams will beat us like that unless we’re not shooting well, we’re not in the right spot consistently. We couldn’t put one or two stops together.”
The issue for the Celtics, especially without Al Horford for a fifth consecutive game, was the duo of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, who combined for 46 points and 28 rebounds. If Drummond or Griffin weren’t scoring at the rim, the Pistons were hitting a key 3-pointer or getting to the free throw line. Six Pistons scored in double figures.
Meanwhile, the Celtics’ bench struggled mightily. The trio of Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier were 5-for-21 shooting with six turnovers. With the second unit unable to provide a lift, the starters pressed and couldn’t hit the shots they usually make.
“We didn’t shoot like we have been, and [offensively] they hurt us,” coach Brad Stevens said. “The way that they scored, executed, moved it, they could [have] put up more than 113. They missed some open shots in the second half. They looked great. We couldn’t match them shot for shot, and with the way we were guarding them, that’s what we had to do. It’s not our best game.”
The Celtics chose to look big picture after the loss. They had won their previous eight games, looking impressive offensively in the process. The defense had slipped in the past few games but the players feel as if the past three weeks righted their troublesome start.
“We’re disappointed but at the same time, it’s one game for us,” guard Marcus Smart said. “We have been playing well so far, so we can’t let this discourage us too much, to start going down in a slope and we can’t this game compound to the next game. We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on.”
The Celtics trailed most of the first half but then scored 6 points in the final minute of the first half to slice the Detroit lead to 57-56. They appeared ready to take control after an Aron Baynes layup give them a 66-63 lead, but a combination of missed shots along with interior dominance of Drummond sparked an 11-0 Detroit run.
The lead stretched to 14 before the Celtics scored 7 points in the final 39 seconds of the third period to give themselves yet another chance to steal one. But the offense sputtered, as the Celtics didn’t score a field goal for the first 7:31 of the fourth period.
The Pistons scored a stunning 28 fourth-quarter points on just six field goals because they attempted 18 free throws. The Celtics fouled too often and let Detroit get away with playing poorly in the final few minutes.
“They came out and played desperate basketball,” Irving said. “They were not the same Detroit team that we’ve been seeing on film the last few games. They just had the will, the more fight, and it showed.”
More photos from Saturday’s game: