Celtics-Pistons preview: Size matters

Celtics-Pistons preview: Size matters
March 9, 2014, 10:30 am
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BOSTON — Although Celtics head coach Brad Stevens at times will downplay the role analytics data plays in how he goes about doing his job, it is nonetheless a tool he will use.

But when it comes to the Detroit Pistons, crunching numbers is not required in assessing why they have given the Celtics fits this season.

"They're big," Stevens said.

Especially along the frontcourt with 6-foot-9 Josh Smith and a pair of twin towers in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who are 6-11 and 7-feet, respectively.

Now Detroit is even bigger with 6-8 Kyle Singler starting at shooting guard.

"He (Singler) can post, he can cut. He's a hard driving guy," Stevens said. "He's just a big guy for a typical two-guard to guard."

Dealing with Detroit's gigantic frontline will be among the many challenges awaiting the Celtics.

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Because of Detroit's huge advantage inside, expect the Pistons to try and generate as much offense as possible around the basket. They'll do this not only on post-up plays, but also by crashing the boards. They lead the NBA in offensive rebounds with 14.5 per game as well as points in the paint with 52.6 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Josh Smith

Green has to use his speed effectively in order to win this matchup, in addition to holding his own defensively against the beefier Smith to the chagrin of  the Celtics, has been taking fewer 3-point shots lately. Last season, 26.2 percent of Smith's shots were 3-pointers. This season, that number is down to just 14.9 percent.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger has really struggled with his shot since returning from a concussion. In the last three games, he has averaged 8.7 points on 25.9 percent shooting. For the season, he's averaging 12.9 points on 42.8 percent shooting. 

STAT TO TRACK: Lulling the Pistons into shooting lots of threes will go far in Boston's quest to win a second straight. Detroit is second-to-last in the NBA when it comes to threes, shooting just 31 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Celtics have been ranked among the NBA's top 10 three-point defenses for much of the season and are currently seventh in the league in limiting opponents to 34.7 percent on threes.

Boston is also coming off one of its best games defending the 3-point shot, limiting the Brooklyn Nets to 13.3 percent on 4-for-30 shooting in the Celtics' 91-84 win on Friday with Brooklyn missing its first 17 attempts.