Blakely: Defense, not shot selection, the bigger issue in Celtics loss to Pistons

Blakely: Defense, not shot selection, the bigger issue in Celtics loss to Pistons

BOSTON – Unless you’re starting point guard is named Stephen Curry, there’s no reason why any NBA team should be taking 42 – yes, 42 – 3-pointers in one game. 
But there were the Boston Celtics, bombing away from deep range all night long, clanking one missed shot after another as the Detroit Pistons handed them a 121-114 home loss. 

"That’s a little high,” Boston’s Jae Crowder told reporters after the loss. “Their defense is not that good to force up 42 3-point attempts.”


The high number of 3s taken were indeed problematic for the Celtics. 
But players were quick to point out that there was an even bigger issue plaguing them on Wednesday night – their defense. 
“We didn’t get stops when we needed to,” Crowder said. “And early on those guys felt comfortable.”

Said Avery Bradley: “They just wanted it more. They played hard the entire game and they were making shots.” 
Detroit, which came into the game ranked 19th in the NBA in field goal percentage (.445), finished Wednesday’s game having connected on 55.2 percent of their shots from the field. 
“Over the course of forty-eight minutes, no question, best offensive performance of the year,” said Stan Van Gundy, Detroit’s head coach and president of basketball operations.
Boston certainly has to get better at both ends of the floor, but scoring 114 points should be more than enough to win a game. 
It’s their defense that has to get back to playing at the level we’ve seen the past couple of weeks which has catapulted them from being one of the league’s worst to steadily becoming one of the league’s better defensive squads which is where they expect to be when all is said and done. 
“What really hurt us was transition defense,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters after the loss. “Ish Smith really pushing the pace. They do a good job of spreading their shooters around him so he’s basically going one-on-one against our guy. We needed to do a better job of containing him. I just think our transition was really the difference because they got a lot of easy baskets.”
Jae Crowder believes part of the problem is the Celtics’ attitude towards playing defense.
“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” Crowder said. “It’s not been an ongoing thing. It happened (Wednesday night) and it happened in the Denver game, a couple (other) games. For the most part we’ve been trying to impose our will first.”
But having been ranked among the NBA’s top offensive teams for the better part of this season thus far, the Celtics didn’t seem eager to buckle down defensively to gradually work their way back into the game. 
“We were trying to get it all back at once,” Bradley said. “I still like the effort we played with at the end. All the guys still played hard, tried to win the game.”
Added Crowder: “We have to believe in the process and our game plan and stick to it instead of veering off and doing our own thing sometimes. We have to stick to it, knowing we have a lot of basketball left when we get down early.”
And to Detroit’s credit, they were coming off an impressive road win at Charlotte on Tuesday night and seemingly picked up where they left off, against Detroit. 
“They played terrific and made shots,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “In a game like that, you’ve got to be even more in their airspace and you’ve got to capitalize even more on the offensive end. Otherwise, you’re probably in trouble.”

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”