BOSTON – The final three minutes of Wednesday’s game was about as good defensively as the Boston Celtics played all game.
And it was almost enough to get the win.
But too many defensive breakdowns most of the night proved to be too much for the Celtics to overcome as the Detroit Pistons held off a furious last-second rally by Boston to hand the Celtics a 121-114 loss.
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Former UConn star Andre Drummond had a double-double of 20 points and 17 rebounds. Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led all Pistons with 25 points as Detroit (10-10) shot 55.2 percent from the field compared to the Celtics (10-8) who connected on 44 percent of their shots.
For a Celtics team that has made tremendous strides defensively in the past couple of weeks, you would not have known that by the way Detroit got anything and everything they wanted offensively for most of the night.
Drives to the basket?
They got all that on Wednesday, although the Celtics did show some fight in the fourth quarter.
That was when Boston showed signs of getting their defensive act together, cutting the Pistons led to 94-92 following back-to-back baskets by Jae Crowder.
After a Detroit time-out with 7:42 to play, Crowder was at it again.
Only this time, he drew an offensive foul against Marcus Morris six seconds later. Crowder, who had 14 points, was one of six Celtics in double figures scoring.
The Celtics took a brief 95-94 lead in the fourth quarter following a basket by Terry Rozier who came into the game with the fourth-highest shooting percentage (.588) in the fourth quarter of games this season.
But that spurt by Boston was no different than earlier ones, as the Pistons responded with a 9-0 spurge of their own to lead 103-95 with 5:08 to play.
From there, Boston cut into Detroit’s lead but could not muster up enough plays at either end of the floor to swing the game’s momentum back in their favor.
It was a credit to Boston’s high-powered offense that the game never reached blowout proportions.
But make no mistake about it.
This game belonged to Detroit.
Even as the defense struggled, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas continued to play his aggressive, attack-at-all-times style of basketball.
And it once again led to a big night scoring for the all-star who led the Celtics with 27 points.
Boston also got a strong game from Kelly Olynyk who took advantage of Detroit’s slower-footed centers to get wide 3-point attempts as well as drives to the basket when they closed out too hard on him.
He finished with 19 points off the bench.
The one Celtic whose offense was nowhere to be found most of the night was Avery Bradley, the team’s second-leading scorer.
Give a lot of credit to Caldwell-Pope who is establishing a name for himself as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league.
How bad was it for Bradley?
His first made basket was a 3-pointer at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter, with Bradley finishing with 14 points, nine of which came in the final minutes of play when the game’s outcome was all but decided.