You could call it three quarters of strong defense. But it was also a game of will and heart. And strangely, the Celtics came up short again.
It is really just too hard to tell right now how much the Celtics’ current problems are simply due to Kevin Garnett and Marquis Daniels being out or are beyond that.
Normally it is the Celtic defense that has suffered the most. In this contest, they played good enough defense to win most games. It was the Celtics offense that struggled.
I make sure to mention Daniels because he is the forgotten man right now. Everyone knows that the Celtics are a different team with Kevin Garnett. But Daniels is very important to what the Celtics do at both ends of the floor. He does a lot of little things and those things don’t always make the stat sheet. He is expected back after the All Star break. Garnett returns Friday against Portland.
The Celtics lost last night to the now 15-26 Pistons. Boston drops to 27-13.
Pistons Defense Picks Up, Celtics Give Up lead
Watching this team score just 30 second half points, while losing to the depleted Detroit Pistons (missing Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, and Will Bynum) after leading by 8 at the half gives cause for concern.
It was another third quarter collapse as the Celtics could only manage 13 points to the Pistons 21. It took a 5-0 run to close the quarter to even reach 13. They continue to come out and blow leads in the third quarter.
After shooting .583 in the first half, the Celtics made just 9 baskets in the entire second half, shooting 9-34 for 26%. After starting off 3 of 6 from the three point line, they shot 2 for 13 in the second half.
Pistons Bench Scores 43 Points
The Celtics energy faded and the Pistons energy grew. While the Celtics’ bench was outscored 43-12, that is a deceptive number. The Pistons bench played many of their minutes against the Celtic starters and outplayed them.
No doubt, Eddie House leading the bench rebounding with 3 tells you the bench was remiss as well. Glen Davis played 15 minutes without getting a rebound. Tony Allen scored 4 points with one assist in 16 minutes. Again, somewhat deceptively, the bench players were either neutral or had a plus in the plus/minus stat.
Led by Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell and even rookie Austin Daye, the Pistons came alive in the second half.
Charlie Villanueva Unchained
In a rare show of protracted determination, former UConn star, mild mannered Charlie V. appeared to wake up and catch fire (after a few choice words?) embracing a little duel with Rasheed.
After Sheed knocked a pass away from Villanueva from behind, the Pistons picked it back up. CV was now behind Wallace and immediately cut to the basket for an alley oop that Wallace didn’t read until far too late.
Wallace came down court, got the ball on the left block, looking to return the favor, and immediately backed CV down into the blocks. Villanueva aggressively held his ground (yes, aggressively) and forced Sheed to miss one in his wheelhouse. Davis was there to grab what would have been his only rebound but Charlie fought the ball loose and flung it at Glen’s leg as he was falling out of bounds. Pistons ball.
I mention this sequence because, if Charlie played this way all the time, he would be an all star. As Chris Webber observed recently on NBA TV, Charlie gives you one strong game in about every four. This must have been game number 4.
Villanueva scored 19 points, blocked 2 shots, and hit a huge three pointer with 54 seconds left, to give Detroit a 88-81 lead. Granted he only grabbed 3 boards himself. But the rest of the Pistons did better.
Detroit out rebounded Boston 45-35 overall and 13 to 5 on the offensive boards. It was a major factor as the Pistons scored 12 second chance points to zero for the Celtics. Even the 5 o-boards the Cs grabbed were futile.
You could see the Celtic energy and lead slipping away and Boston made a few last ditch efforts to save an other game that should have been theirs all along.
After Rasheed hit a three pointer to make it 88-84 with 45 seconds left, Richard Hamilton hit a huge jump shot to make it 90-84 with 20 seconds left. Ray Allen was forced off the three point line and drove to make it 90-86 with 14 seconds left. Ray then had to foul Rip Hamilton with 9 seconds left in the back court, and he made both foul shots to end the scoring at 92-86.
The Celtics are now 4-8 over the last 12 and have lost three in a row for the second time this season. They are 5-6 without KG.
No Team Too Easy, No Lead Safe
The Pistons just had a 13 game losing streak and were still down three key players. Someone mentioned that a game against a team like Pistons might be just what the doctor ordered. Paul Pierce was prophetic when he said that the Celtics are struggling themselves and you can’t count on that.
How true that would be. The pattern is the same. The Celtics played a strong first half and led 56-48 at the break.
Paul opened strong with 17 first quarter points. Rasheed Wallace had 3 first quarter steals and a blocked shot. Rondo added 8 points and 2 steals, as the Pistons turned the ball over 9 times and the Celtics led 30-21 heading into the second period. The Pistons would only turn the ball over 8 more times in the game.
The Pistons played the Celtics about even in the second quarter (27-26) while the Celtics shot .583 for the first half to the Pistons .452.
The Rondo and Stuckey Show
Rondo and Rodney Stuckey engaged in a offensive duel with Rondo scoring 14 first half points on 6 of 9 shooting to Stuckey’s 13 points on 5 of 13 shooting.
Both players carried it on the whole game, with Stuckey putting on a sensational show, leading the Pistons with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. Rajon was nearly as impressive at that end of the floor, finishing tied for team honors with 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals in a team high 42 plus minutes.
There was one point where Rondo and Perkins were fighting each other for the same rebound and they almost lost the ball, before Perkins recovered it and threw it down court.
Perkins finished with 8 points, 4 boards, 3 blocks (including a great one over Ray Allen to stop a Rip Hamilton shot) and 4 turnovers in 35 plus minutes.
Rasheed Wallace contributed 16 points on 5 of 13 shooting, 7 rebounds, no assists and 3 steals.
Paul Pierce finished 21 points on 6 of 12 shooting, 7 of 7 free throws, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers.
Ray Allen added 8 points on just 10 shots, going 3 for 10, with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a team high 5 turnovers.
The question remains whether just getting back Kevin Garnett and Marquis Daniels solves all problems. It could solve most of them.
The question remains as to why we don’t seem to see the iron will to win that we saw the last two seasons from this team, even with out Garnett.
The Celtics come home to play Portland, another team hit hard by injury, on Friday night. As Paul Pierce said, nothing can or should be taken for granted in this league, especially when your team has its own problems.