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.”