AUBURN HILLS, Mich. In this still-young NBA season, the Detroit Pistons have stood out as arguably the league's worst team for no other reason than them having the league's worst record.
But the danger with that is teams like the Boston Celtics spending more time playing the opposing team's record rather than the team.
Although the C's were beaten handily, 103-83, taking the Pistons too lightly didn't seem to be the issue.
Boston's schedule, with Sunday's loss putting an end to a brutal seven games in 10 days stretch in which the C's were 4-3.
"Dead men walking" was how Celtics coach Doc Rivers described his team's play against the Pistons. "Give Detroit credit. I thought they played extremely hard. We just had no legs."
With the loss, the Celtics are now 4-1 this season against teams with a record of .500 or worse on the day in which they play.
Although the loss is disappointing, the Celtics have no plans to allow it to linger.
"We won't have another stretch like this the entire season," Rivers said. "When I saw the schedule, I saw that last game and thought, 'That's going to be a hard game for us to win,'" Rivers recalled. "I thought we could figure out a way to pull it out. We just couldn't."
Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game that played a role in some fashion to the Celtics losing for the first time this season to a team with a losing record.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics kept Kevin Garnett's minutes down to just 17 on Saturday, which is an ideal tally on the front end of a back-to-back set of games. That had a lot to do with Boston's second unit uncharacteristically extending the team's lead when he left the game. The C's increased their lead when Garnett left the floor in all but one quarter of Saturday's 107-89 win over Toronto. It's worth monitoring to see if they can repeat that success.
WHAT WE SAW: Kevin Garnett's minutes were once again relatively low (21 minutes) and his production was not bad (15 points, four rebounds) but not great, either. But like most of his teammates, Garnett never sustained the kind of high impact the Celtics needed in order to win.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Brandon Knight: Rondo played a very Rondo-like game with 20 assists against Toronto on Saturday after missing the previous game with a right ankle sprain. Knight will be the latest up-and-coming talented point guard who will see Rondo as a litmus test as far as how they stack up to the game's premier playmakers. The second-year guard is averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists this season. Only two players from the 2011 draft (Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker) are averaging at least 10 points and five assists per game.
WHAT WE SAW: This matchup never materialized into much of a duel, with Knight playing just 22 minutes while scoring three points with one assist. Rondo had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, but only tallied a season-low 10 assists.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger had a nice bounce-back game with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Toronto after logging less than eight minutes in Brooklyn on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he can bring that same level of intensity and production to the floor tonight.
WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger, playing in front of his parents and his agent David Falk, did his part in keeping this blowout loss from being a lot worst. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting which included a jumper that gave Rajon Rondo his 10th assist and kept Rondo's double-digit assists streak alive and well at 34 games and counting.
STAT TO TRACK: With or without Rajon Rondo in the lineup, you can count on the Celtics racking up a high number of assists per game. They come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 25.3. For all that has gone wrong for Detroit this season, the Pistons have done a fairly decent job of limiting the assists of opponents. Teams are averaging 20.4 against Detroit this season, the sixth-best mark in the league.
WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement was a foreign concept most of the Sunday night for the Boston Celtics, as the team tallied a season-low 12 assists. "That is how it goes," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "Some nights you are on and some nights you are off."