Preview: Pistons at Celtics

Preview: Pistons at Celtics
February 15, 2012, 7:33 pm
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BOSTON Despite a less-than-stellar record the Detroit Pistons (8-22) are actually playing some decent basketball lately, with half of their wins this season coming within the last two weeks. Several guys have stepped up, but a big part of the credit for the turnaround has to go to Pistons head coach, and former Celtics assistant, Lawrence Frank.

"I like what he brings to the table. He brings a lot of energy," Pistons center Ben Wallace told CSNNE.com. "A guy that knows the game; does a lot of teaching. He doesn't just roll the ball out and say, 'this is what we're going to run.'"

Frank is a defensive-minded coach, which seems a prerequisite for Celtics assistants (Tom Thibodeau in Chicago is another) who move on to head-coaching gigs.

Boston (15-12) will certainly look to attack a Detroit defense that has actually shown progress in limiting opponents scoring. The Pistons have given up 95.8 points per game this season, but trimmed that to just 91.3 points in their last six games - four of which they won.

Generating offense against an improving Pistons defense will be just one of the many factors to be watching as the Celtics try to continue their winning ways - the C's have won 10 of their last 13 - against Detroit.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - With the Pistons having lost last night at home to San Antonio, don't be surprised if the Celtics come out looking to run more than usual. Along with Detroit likely having weary legs, the Celtics have proven despite their age, they can run - and run well. Against the Bulls, Boston outscored them 33-7, in fast break points. With Detroit having its issues earlier this year defensively, they naturally don't fare well when it comes to fast-break points. They average 11.2 per game which ranks No. 22 in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rodney Stuckey vs Ray Allen: Size and strength meets speed and accuracy. Stuckey's play has been a part of Detroit's improved play of late. In their last six games, he has averaged 15.3 points and 4.8 assists - both better than his season numbers. As for Ray Allen, he has shot less than 50 percent from the field in each of the last three games, which is the second-longest such stretch for him this season. The big thing with Allen is getting shot attempts. In the month of February, the Celtics are 3-1 when Allen gets 10 or more shot attempts.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Chris Wilcox did a fine job (12 points, 9 rebounds against Chicago) filling in for Jermaine O'Neal. Now that O'Neal is expected back for tonight's game, it'll be interesting if Wilcox can make a similar impact coming off the bench. His athleticism and ability to run the floor, in many ways, makes him a more attractive option for the Celtics at the center position. But don't look for the C's to make a change, not with O'Neal providing the kind of defensive presence that no other Celtic center - Wilcox included - provides.

STAT TO TRACK - Arguably the best center in the Eastern Conference to not be named an All-Star this year is Detroit's Greg Monroe. The Pistons are ranked 13th in the NBA in points in the paint (40.7), with Monroe's inside presence being key. He's coming off a subpar 4-point, 6-rebound night against the Spurs. But for the season, he's a near double-double with 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. As for the Celtics, they have actually improved their interior defense as the season progressed. Teams are scoring 39 points per game against them inside the paint, which ranks 9th in fewest points allowed in that category.