Celtics-Pistons review: C's are 'dead men walking'

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Celtics-Pistons review: C's are 'dead men walking'

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. In this still-young NBA season, the Detroit Pistons have stood out as arguably the league's worst team for no other reason than them having the league's worst record.

But the danger with that is teams like the Boston Celtics spending more time playing the opposing team's record rather than the team.

Although the C's were beaten handily, 103-83, taking the Pistons too lightly didn't seem to be the issue.

The problem?

Boston's schedule, with Sunday's loss putting an end to a brutal seven games in 10 days stretch in which the C's were 4-3.

"Dead men walking" was how Celtics coach Doc Rivers described his team's play against the Pistons. "Give Detroit credit. I thought they played extremely hard. We just had no legs."

With the loss, the Celtics are now 4-1 this season against teams with a record of .500 or worse on the day in which they play.

Although the loss is disappointing, the Celtics have no plans to allow it to linger.

"We won't have another stretch like this the entire season," Rivers said. "When I saw the schedule, I saw that last game and thought, 'That's going to be a hard game for us to win,'" Rivers recalled. "I thought we could figure out a way to pull it out. We just couldn't."

Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game that played a role in some fashion to the Celtics losing for the first time this season to a team with a losing record.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics kept Kevin Garnett's minutes down to just 17 on Saturday, which is an ideal tally on the front end of a back-to-back set of games. That had a lot to do with Boston's second unit uncharacteristically extending the team's lead when he left the game. The C's increased their lead when Garnett left the floor in all but one quarter of Saturday's 107-89 win over Toronto. It's worth monitoring to see if they can repeat that success.

WHAT WE SAW: Kevin Garnett's minutes were once again relatively low (21 minutes) and his production was not bad (15 points, four rebounds) but not great, either. But like most of his teammates, Garnett never sustained the kind of high impact the Celtics needed in order to win.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Brandon Knight: Rondo played a very Rondo-like game with 20 assists against Toronto on Saturday after missing the previous game with a right ankle sprain. Knight will be the latest up-and-coming talented point guard who will see Rondo as a litmus test as far as how they stack up to the game's premier playmakers. The second-year guard is averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists this season. Only two players from the 2011 draft (Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker) are averaging at least 10 points and five assists per game.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup never materialized into much of a duel, with Knight playing just 22 minutes while scoring three points with one assist. Rondo had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, but only tallied a season-low 10 assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger had a nice bounce-back game with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Toronto after logging less than eight minutes in Brooklyn on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he can bring that same level of intensity and production to the floor tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger, playing in front of his parents and his agent David Falk, did his part in keeping this blowout loss from being a lot worst. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting which included a jumper that gave Rajon Rondo his 10th assist and kept Rondo's double-digit assists streak alive and well at 34 games and counting.

STAT TO TRACK: With or without Rajon Rondo in the lineup, you can count on the Celtics racking up a high number of assists per game. They come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 25.3. For all that has gone wrong for Detroit this season, the Pistons have done a fairly decent job of limiting the assists of opponents. Teams are averaging 20.4 against Detroit this season, the sixth-best mark in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement was a foreign concept most of the Sunday night for the Boston Celtics, as the team tallied a season-low 12 assists. "That is how it goes," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "Some nights you are on and some nights you are off."

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

Goodell: NFL working on a way to reduce commercial breaks during games

The NFL is acknowledging it has a time-management issue. Games are too long. Commercial are too frequent. And according to an email addressed to NFL fans, Roger Goodell is hoping to change that.

On Wednesday afternoon the commissioner explained the methods by which the league is hoping to improve the fan experience, most of which concern the presentation of games with as few interruptions as possible. 

"On the football side, there are a number of changes we are making to the mechanics and rules of the game to maintain excitement and also improve the consistency of our officiating," Goodell wrote. "For example, next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.

"Regarding game timing, we're going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we're considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We're also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game."

Goodell also mentioned that the NFL is working with its broadcast partners to reduce the frequency of commercial breaks during games. 

"For example," Goodell wrote, "we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it."

Goodell, team owners and executives will convene in Phoenix next week for the league's annual meetings where discussions about these potential changes could see meaningful progress.

Dear Jaylen: Go back to being you

Dear Jaylen: Go back to being you

Dear Jaylen,

When the Celtics drafted you third overall, I cursed you for not being Kris Dunn. I still have no idea if you're going to be a good NBA player, but I can tell by watching you there's reason for hope. 

You're young, impressionable, and you lack confidence, which is typical for a 20-year-old whether he plays in the NBA or works at a bank. Tonight’s game against the Pacers is the time for you to take a step. Not a giant step; just a small step back towards becoming the player you were before Marcus Smart disrespected you in the Minnesota game. 

Prior to Smart’s griping at you for no reason, you had shot 11-for-22 in the previous three games. Since that time you've gone 4-for-14. This isn't a coincidence and hopefully Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have talked to you about it. You need to know they have your back, especially if Smart doesn’t.

The tough-guy Twitter jerks will tell you to toughen up and that if you’re going to play in the league you have to be able take it. Well, they’re right, but it's unfair of them to expect that now. It’s one thing to get into it on the court with an opponent, but when one of your own dresses you down like Smart did because you drove for a layup . . . that can be a bit unnerving. 

So tonight, Jaylen, it’s all about you. Get the ball, don’t wait for the damn play and take it to the rim. It’s your time, kid, and the Celtics need you now and for the next 10 years. 

Sincerely,
Gary Tanguay