Blakely's Celtics-Pistons preview

Blakely's Celtics-Pistons preview
February 19, 2012, 4:48 pm
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Paul Pierce is what you would call a "professional scorer."

He can do many things on the court, which is why the 34-year-old has been selected to 10 All-Star games by the Eastern Conference coaches. But just like Celtics victories, points have also been hard to come by for Pierce.

After his streak of 15-point, 5-assist games was snapped in Toronto on Feb. 10, Pierce has been unable to score 15 or more points in the four games since the streak came to an end.

For some, it may not seem like that big a deal.

But for a professional scorer like Pierce, it's huge . . . as in, historically huge.

Throughout his 13-plus NBA seasons, the 6-foot-7 forward hasn't had a stretch of five or more consecutive games scoring less than 15 points, since a seven-game slump in March of 1999 -- his rookie season.

So to say that Pierce will be looking to get on track scoring-wise tonight against the Pistons, well, that's a given.

But that's not the only factor that'll come into play, as the Celtics (15-14) look to remain above .500 against a Pistons team that has won six of its last eight games, a stretch that includes a 10-point win at Boston on Feb. 15.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Forcing Detroit rookie point guard Brandon Knight into making mistakes has to be part of the Celtics' game plan. Like most rookies -- especially point guards -- Knight has had his share of up and down moments. Certainly one of the highlights of his season was Friday night when the Pistons beat Sacramento, and he had 10 assists without a single turnover. Indeed, his assist to turnover ratio in many ways will be a key to tonight's outcome. In Detroit's 10 wins, he's averaging 4.4 assists to just 1.5 turnovers per game. In the 22 losses, his assist numbers dip to 3.2 per game, but there's a sizable jump in his turnovers, to 3.1 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Ray Allen vs. Rodney Stuckey: This was the matchup to watch when the two played last week, a matchup that was won decisively by Stuckey. Allen showed signs in the second half of the Bulls loss on Thursday that he's on the verge of breaking out of his annual shooting slump. He had 12 points which included three, 3-pointers. "It was good to see him make some," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "When it's not going in, you need to see it going in." That hasn't been an issue for Stuckey, who has scored at least 23 points in each of Detroit's last three games -- his best scoring stretch of the season.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- The Celtics have been in "strategic rest" mode with Kevin Garnett all season, but it's clear the condensed schedule is starting to impact the 16-year veteran. He missed his first game of the season last week with a hip flexor injury, and the C's are limiting what he does on the rare days when they practice. So far, the C's '5-5-5' plan with KG's minutes has been working. But Boston may consider modifying that slightly, depending on if they think a change will allow him to play with less pain.

STAT TO TRACK -- The Pistons are a middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting team (they're ranked 17th), with a significant number of their long-balls coming from Ben Gordon. The former UConn star willed the Pistons to victory over Boston last week, connecting on 4-of-6 3-pointers in the fourth. Mind you, the rest of the Pistons were 0-for-6 on 3s. And when Gordon is on from 3-point range, the Pistons usually win. In victories, he has connected on 50 percent of his 3-point shots. In losses, that number falls to 39 percent.

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