Celtics - Pistons preview: C's bench picking it up

Celtics - Pistons preview: C's bench picking it up
December 18, 2013, 10:00 am
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BOSTON — When it comes to the Boston Celtics' second unit, there's really no way to predict how they will perform.

There's still plenty of room for them to improve, but the up-and-down play is starting to lessen some.

"We understand what we need to do when we get out there as a whole," said Boston reserve Courtney Lee. "It's no more second-guessing or thinking."

And that's huge for a unit that continues to get better as the season progresses.

Boston has won two of its last three games, and the bench has been a big part of that success.

In the last three games, the Celtics' second unit is shooting 52.7 percent from the field which is tied for second among NBA second units during that span.

But their play goes beyond statistics.

For example, in Boston's 101-97 win over Minnesota, rookie big man Kelly Olynyk came off the bench and saved a couple of loose balls before they went out of bounds that led to five points for the Celtics.

Fellow reserve Kris Humphries had eight points and seven rebounds along with playing decent defense against Kevin Love.

The role of Lee and all the Celtics reserves is to be game-changers who can extend leads or wipe out deficits with timely shot-making and defense.

"Everybody is buying into that," Lee said.

Here are some other keys in tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Boston's defense has really taken the opposing team's starting backcourt out of the game early and often. In the Celtic's last two games - both wins - the opposing backcourt shot a combined 14.7 percent (5-for-34) from the field. Meanwhile, Boston's starting guards Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford have shot 39.1 percent (20-for-51) from the field.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs Andre Drummond: Sullinger once again finds himself giving up size as well as athleticism. This is one of those games where Sullinger is really going to have to mix it up offensively, and keep his head on a swivel on defense because the Pistons will be looking to get Drummond as many lob dunks as possible.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Josh Smith has been playing some of his best basketball lately for Detroit, and is a big reason why they are steadily pushing towards being a playoff team this season. Detroit has won two of its last three games, with Smith averaging 23.7 points, 6.7 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: There's a reason why the Pistons don't shoot a ton of 3s, and it's not just because of their towering tandem of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. They take just 6.1 3s per game which ranks 26th in the league. Detroit's connecting on just 31.2 percent of their 3s which ranks 29th in the NBA.