BOSTON – Depending on how you want to look at it, the Boston Celtics have been a team that cruises in the first half and crushes opponents in the second, or one who plays at its best when the game matters most.
Regardless, Boston (18-3) has been a better team in the second half of games this season.
Keeping along those lines won’t be easy tonight when they host a Detroit Pistons team that has played well, particularly in the second half of games … just like Boston.
In Boston’s 108-98 win over Indiana on Saturday, the Celtics were down 54-45 at the half only to bounce back with a dominant third quarter by outscoring the Pacers 37-16.
“We were kind of moving in mud there for two and a half quarters,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens following the win over Indiana. “Some shots went our way, which was good. We were fortunate to pull it out because we weren’t great the first two and a half quarters. To our guys credit, they kind of stuck with it and pulled together.”
That has been among the many strengths of this Celtics team, one that ranks among the league leaders in several categories in the second half of games.
Offensively, the Celtics are draining 5.9 three-pointers in the second half which ranks seventh in the NBA. In addition, they are shooting 39.2 percent (4th) from 3-point range as well as 13.7 free throw attempts (6th) which speaks to how in the second half of games, Boston has found success not only from deep but also do a good job of attacking defenses and getting to the free throw line which has been critical to them having a second-half offensive rating of 112.2 which ranks second in the league.
Defensively, the Celtics have been strong in the third and fourth quarters as well.
Their defensive rating is 95.6 which is tops in the NBA. They have also been extremely stingy when it comes to giving up points off turnovers (6.0, tops in the NBA), second-chance points (5.1, 3rd in the NBA) and fast-break points (3.2, 3rd).
But in the Pistons (12-7), owners of the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will face a team which has been strong defensively in the second half of games this season.
Detroit (12-7) has a defensive rating (100.5) in the second half of games which ranks seventh in the NBA. The Pistons also rank in the top 10 in fewest points allowed off turnovers (7.8, 10th); second-chance points (4.9, 2nd) and points in the paint (19.7, 7th) in the second half.
While Detroit’s second-half defense is legit, you can bet the Celtics won’t be giving it too much thought heading into tonight’s game.
More than anything else, they will focus on what they need to do to extend their new winning streak to three in a row even if that means rallying from behind which is something that we’ve seen thus far this season, they’re really good at.