Signs of progress in Celtics loss to Pistons

Signs of progress in Celtics loss to Pistons
April 6, 2014, 12:00 am
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(AP Photo)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – After a while, all the losses for the Boston Celtics have a way of morphing together to form this big, gigantic gelatinous mass of missed opportunities at victory.

But in the latest addition to the Boston Celtics' first 50-plus loss season since 2007, Saturday night's 115-111 defeat to the Detroit Pistons stood out.

And the reasons went beyond how they blew a 19-point lead in the third quarter which led to them losing their eighth straight game.

The previous two losses for Boston were games that the Celtics simply didn't play with the kind of collective composure to even be competitive, let alone emerge victorious.

The usually cool-as-they-come head coach Brad Stevens was noticeably frustrated by his team's play, and that frustration was permeating throughout the team's locker room as players struggled to come to grips as to why they had suddenly lost that competitive edge that on many levels defined who they were as a team.

But on Saturday, Boston did so many things well for such large blocks of time that for the first time in a while, they actually thought they had this one won.

Really.

And while a victory certainly would have made all involved feel better, the fact that they were back to playing competitive basketball and giving themselves a chance to be successful, was indeed encouraging.

"The last couple games before this, it's pretty apparent we haven't been playing well," said Jerryd Bayless who led the Celtics with 25 points on Saturday. "Things weren't connected. People weren't on the same page here. (Saturday night), we felt like we really did play well."

Stevens echoed similar sentiments.

"We were really whipping the ball around, playing together, for the most part all night," Stevens said. "I thought all our guys played pretty hard tonight."

But there was a stretch in the third quarter after the Celtics went ahead by 19, that they didn't continue to press ahead with what was working.

Boston took a 95-85 lead into the fourth quarter after Detroit closed the quarter with a 22-13 run.

"We had a spurt where we let off the gas a little bit," Bayless said. "You can't do that in the NBA. It doesn't matter who you're playing or what night it is. It came back to bite us."

Boston had 16 assists on 23 made field goals in the first half. But in the second half, they had just nine assists on 19 made baskets which speaks to how they got away from the crisp ball movement that was resulting in easy shots.

And once again the Celtics found themselves fighting an uphill battle that as we have seen time and time again, they have more often than not come up short in winning — even with a 19-point lead in the second half.

Although Jared Sullinger is only in his second season, he has been around long enough to know a thing or two about how there's no such thing as a comfortable lead in the NBA.

"In this league, no leads are safe," Sullinger said. "Teams come back from 29 (points down), teams come back from 39. It doesn't matter."