Celtics find a way to beat Detroit, 86-82


Celtics find a way to beat Detroit, 86-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON Despite their impressive record, the Boston Celtics (32-9) are not going to play great basketball every night.

That's OK.

The great teams don't have to.

On those nights when very little goes their way, the great teams find a way to get it done when it matters most.

The Boston Celtics are no exception.

For three-plus quarters, the resurgent Detroit Pistons seemed poised to beat Boston for the second time in three meetings this season.

But they made one critical mistake.

They allowed the C's to be within striking distance in the closing moments.

And the Celtics, like any great team, made them pay.

Boston's defense clamped down in the game's final minutes, finishing the game with an 8-0 run as they rallied for an 86-82 win to extend their winning streak to four in a row.

"Listen, nothing was working today," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We were bad."

For three-plus quarters, at least.

But the C's refused to go completely away, and eventually took the lead on a long 2-pointer by Ray Allen that gave the C's an 84-82 lead with 24.5 seconds to play.

Detroit (15-27), winners of three in a row heading into Wednesday's game, was unable to respond.

After a Pistons time-out with 24.5 seconds to play, Rodney Stuckey's floater in the lane hit the back of the rim, and was rebounded by Kevin Garnett.

Garnett sank the second of the two free throws, giving Boston a 3-point lead with 16.6 seconds to play.

Following another time-out by Detroit, Pistons guard and former UConn star Ben Gordon drove into the lane but missed the lay-up.

Glen Davis grabbed his sixth rebound of the night and was immediately fouled.

Davis, who had 11 points off the bench, made the first of two free throws to secure the victory.

"They are an experienced team," said Pistons coach John Kuester, a former Celtics assistant. "They took their time, they were poised."

And it is that poise that was on display down the stretch, a time when the C's battle-tested veterans tend to play their best basketball.

That certainly was the case with Shaquille O'Neal, the oldest player in the league who seemed to have the most spring in his step in the fourth quarter.

He finished with his first double-double as a Celtic, tallying 12 points and 12 rebounds, which included a 3-point play in the fourth that tied the game at 76-76.

"The whole team was flat," O'Neal said. "It was a slow game, it was an ugly game. I just wanted to do my part and try to get us close so we would be able to win."

Said Rivers: "Shaq was the difference in the game, with his energy. Forget his size and all that. I thought Shaq was . . . he won the game for us tonight."

In addition to O'Neal's play, Boston also got another strong game from Paul Pierce who led all players with 22 points.

The C's can't explain why they collectively came out so flat, and never seemed to play with any kind of energy for most of the game.

But they found a way to win.

And when you're looking at an Eastern Conference race that'll likely be decided in the final days - not weeks - of the season, there's no such thing as a bad win.

"Every game is important for us to win, especially on our home court," Paul Pierce said. "All of these games, no matter who we're playing, are big. When you look at the standings, it's going to come down to the end of the year. We're playing for home court advantage throughout the playoffs, so all these games are big for us."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back


Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.