C's-Pistons preview: Turnovers are points of contention for Celts

672376.jpg

C's-Pistons preview: Turnovers are points of contention for Celts

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. Forcing the Chicago Bulls into turning the ball over 21 times on Friday was considered a pretty good night for the Boston Celtics.

But it meant very little . . . literally. Look just a tad bit deeper into the numbers, and you'll see that Chicago's mistakes only netted the C's seven points. Seven points!

Doing a better job of making a team pay for its mistakes will be important for the C's tonight against a Detroit Pistons team that, on paper at least, seems to be just what the Celtics need right now.

Detroit (14-25) comes in ranked 24th in turnovers, with 15.2 per game. According to teamrankings.com, 14.2 percent of the Pistons' plays this season result in a turnover, which puts them 27th in the league.

Boston (20-19) has lost two in a row and its inability to convert opponent turnovers into points has been part of the problem.

In the C's last two games, they have forced a total of 39 turnovers but have only converted those mistakes into 25 points.

"You should score at least one point per turnover," said coach Doc Rivers. "And on a good night, it would be nice to have more."

The C's are certainly looking for a good night -- and a win -- against a Detroit team that has won its last three matchups against Boston, including a 20-point thumping of the Celtics at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 18.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics are a bon- fide jump-shooting team, but they may not have much of a choice against Detroit. In addition to being one of the league's best rebounding teams, the Pistons are also one of the NBA's best at blocking shots. Their 5.7 blocks per game ranks ninth in the league this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs. Andre Drummond: While there's a lot more star power than these two on display, both have been coming on strong of late for their respective teams, to the point where one has to legitimately question whether they have earned the right to start. Look for these two Rookie of the Year candidates to be difference-makers off the bench.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With the Celtics coming off back-to-back losses, don't be surprised to see Paul Pierce have a huge game. He's averaging a team-best 19.3 points per game this season, but has averaged just 12.5 points in Boston's last two games -- both losses.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's second unit has to step up tonight, and it'll have to do it against a Detroit team whose backups rank among the league's best in terms of scoring. According to Hoopsstats.com, Detroit's second unit ranks ninth in the league in scoring (37 points per game) while the C's backup bunch comes in at No. 18, with a 31.3 points-per-game average.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.