AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Boston Celtics came into Sunday’s game looking to rebound from back-to-back losses.
So it was only fitting that down the stretch, one of the biggest plays in Boston’s 104-98 victory over Detroit was – what else? – a rebound.
Marcus Smart out-hustling Detroit’s frontcourt to corral a free throw miss by Jaylen Brown – and getting fouled on the play – was a major factor in Boston (38-21) continuing to solidify its place as the second-best team in the East.
Smart went to the free throw line and made both free throws which put the Celtics ahead 100-96 with 37.3 seconds to play.
“Smart’s free throw rebound was as big as there was,” said Boston head coach Brad Stevens.
Smart had five rebounds for the game, four of which were offensive boards which contributed to his 14 points off the Celtics bench.
His play was needed on a night when the Pistons – like most teams – went to great lengths to make sure anyone but Isaiah Thomas had the ball down the stretch.
And to the credit of Thomas’ teammates like Smart, they delivered.
“We can’t put everything on Isaiah, especially when teams know where we’re trying to go,” Smart said. “They know Isaiah is ‘Mr. Fourth Quarter,’ so they’re going to try everything they can to get the ball out of his hands and make other guys make plays and that’s what we did tonight.”
Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday’s game.
Boston got yet another big game from their best scorer, with Thomas delivering a game-high 33 points on 10-for-23 shooting.
Free throw shooting aside, the Celtics had lots of problems keeping Drummond from dominating the boards. He finished with a double-double of 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The steady improvement in Jaylen Brown’s game continues with yet another solid performance. He scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting which included a corner-3-pointer late in the game to put the Celtics ahead.
He drained a couple of 3’s in the second half that was critical to Detroit’s near comeback after being down 15 points in the first half. He finished with a team-high 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting with three rebounds and three assists.
There is something to be said for making winning plays, something Smart tends to do with a high level of consistency. He had 14 points off the Celtics bench to go with five rebounds – four on the offensive glass – including a late offensive rebound in which he was fouled and later, converted a pair of free throws to put Boston up by four points with 37.3 seconds to play.
There were lots of standout performances by the Celtics on Sunday, but few were as under-the-radar as Crowder’s night. He finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in addition to dishing out five assists along with a steal.
It was one of those nights for Olynyk who never got into any kind of flow or rhythm while in the game. He finished with five points, missing six of his eight shot attempts. He grabbed six rebounds but turned the ball over three times in just over 19 minutes of court time. And maybe most telling, his plus/minus was -11 which was the worst figure among Boston players.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The fourth quarter rolled around and the Boston Celtics got something they seldom get at that time – big plays made by someone not named Isaiah Thomas.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Jaylen Brown and a hustle play by Marcus Smart proved to be the difference for Boston as they held on for a 104-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Trailing 96-95, Brown drained a 3-pointer and was fouled on the play.
On the miss, Smart grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Smart, who had 14 points and five assists, made both free throws that put Boston up 100-96 with 37.3 seconds to play.
The Pistons would never get any closer as the Celtics (38-21) snapped a two-game losing streak and just as important, won the head-to-head series three games to one.
While it’s unlikely these two will finish the regular season with an identical record, the Celtics need to win as many head-to-head battles in the East as they can just to make sure they don’t run into a situation like they did last year when they finished in a four-way tie and ultimately wound up as a fifth seed.
Despite winning three of the four meetings this season, the Pistons (28-31) never make it easy.
A strong finish in the third quarter had Detroit trailing Boston by just five points going into the fourth. It soon became a one-possession game after Jon Leuer short jumper.
Smart got the Celtics on the scoreboard in the fourth by draining a jumper while being fouled by Andre Drummond. The 3-point play put the Celtics ahead 82-76 with 9:41 to play.
Detroit responded with an 8-2 spurt to tie the game at 84-all following a lay-up by Jon Lauer with 6:03 to play.
Boston scored four of the next five points to regain their lead, but there was no mistaking the Pistons were not going away anytime soon.
Throughout the fourth, Detroit began to get more of the 50/50 balls, resulting in second and third-shot opportunities which for several stretches proved to be the best play call for the Pistons.
Boston’s biggest weakness against Detroit, rebounding, was alive and well and as problematic as ever.
But the Celtics did just enough when it mattered to more than hold their own on the boards.
They finished +6 (51-45) on the boards against Detroit, leading after each quarter of play.
Detroit tied the game at 88 on a 3-pointer from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope that rattled in with 3:55 to play.
Not surprisingly, the Celtics got the ball in Isaiah Thomas’ hands and he soon put Boston back on top 90-88 following a pair of free throws.
Detroit went ahead 93-92 following a trio of free throws by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope only for a Marcus Smart put-back basket put the Celtics back on top.
Caldwell-Pope wasn’t done. He drained a 3-pointer that put the Pistons (96-94) back on top with 2:08 to play.
Boston led by as many as 15 points, but saw their lead all but wiped away by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
Detroit, picking up its overall aggression and efficiency scoring the ball, were within 70-66 in the third before a turnover led to a Jae Crowder lay-up with about three minutes to play in the quarter.
Boston began to surge away with Terry Rozier draining a 3-pointer followed by a pair of free throws that put the Celtics ahead 78-69 with 1:32 to play in the third.
It was yet another example of the ‘Next-Man-Up’ mantra that has been instrumental to Boston being able to sustain one injury after another.
Rozier’s role was increased in part because of his play, but also because of Gerald Green’s heel injury. He would finish with 13 points off the bench.
But the Pistons continued to prove to be pesky bunch as they chipped away at Boston’s lead which stood at 79-74 going into the fourth quarter.