Celtics-Pistons preview: Familiar matchup, unfamiliar faces

Celtics-Pistons preview: Familiar matchup, unfamiliar faces

BOSTON – Tonight will be the third time Boston has faced the Detroit Pistons this season. 

But with the changes made by the Pistons prior to the trade deadline, past meetings hold very little value especially when you consider Detroit added All-Star forward Blake Griffin while shipping out former Celtic Avery Bradley along with Tobias Harris.


Since Griffin’s arrival, the Pistons have a 6-3 record and are among the teams on the rise in the East. 

“He’s a strong guy … he’s a veteran in this league the last couple years,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris. “He knows how to play the game.”

Since being traded to Detroit, Griffin has averaged 20.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. 

While much of the attention leading up to tonight’s game will center around the Piston’s Griffin and how he meshes with Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Boston’s roster also looks a little different since the last time these two teams played. 

Boston has since added Greg Monroe who signed with the Celtics after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns. 

He has appeared in four games for Boston, averaging 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13 minutes of court time. 

Knowing how successful the Celtics were prior to his arrival, Monroe is aware that there’s likely to be more attention paid to his impact on Boston’s play. 

“I would say it’s a little pressure; but I would say it’s good pressure,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “They’ve already been rolling. Like I’ve been saying, I’m just trying to enhance it. They’re not asking me to do anything or be anything that I’m not. So that makes it easy for both parts.” 


Boston will also benefit from the return of Marcus Smart, who is probable to play after missing the last 11 games due to a right-hand laceration suffered last month when he punched a picture frame and suffered cuts that required 20 stitches to close. 

The Celtics have been among the league’s best teams defensively and Smart’s play has a lot to do with that. His defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among all players who log 30 or more minutes per game. 

“He has a very unique understanding of the game, on both ends of the floor, being able to break down the defense and create opportunities for not just himself but for the rest of us,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “We all know how great he is defensively. So what he adds to our team is great; it’s something else.”

And the same can be said for Boston’s play of late, which has been a stark contrast from what we saw earlier this season when they were the best team record-wise, in the Eastern Conference. 

Boston (40-19) has dropped three in a row and four of its past five and now trail Toronto (41-16) by two games in the Eastern Conference. 

“I think we have a sense of urgency about ourselves,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I think we understand the second half of the season and the importance of it, getting ready for the playoffs. And how you can see some of the older guys, Kyrie (Irving), Al

(Horford), the attention to detail the stress about the little things is becoming more evident.”


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”