BOSTON – It was the third quarter and the Boston Celtics found themselves in a familiar position – trailing.
About midway through the quarter, a timeout was called.
Players weren’t happy with how they played as individuals and as a collective unit.
There were some not-fit-to-print words exchanged among the players.
They were angry and didn’t hold back in letting one another know that the way they were playing, was unacceptable.
“Everybody was getting on one another but sometimes that’s good for one another,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier.
In that moment, there was a clear and undeniable sharing of the blame for them being once again having to play from behind.
But in that moment, they also reminded one another that regardless of how deep a hole they dig, collectively they can fight their way out of it.
And it is that ability to understand adversity and realize that it can only be overcome by the collective body and no single individual, that has enabled Boston to win on many nights when most teams would just embrace defeat and try and to think about the next game.
Not this team, one that has a 6-2 record in games in which they have fallen behind by double digits.
The Boston Celtics may find themselves in another dogfight tonight when they host Detroit Pistons (12-7) which has the second-best record in the East behind Boston.
As much as the Celtics would love to come out and bury teams from the outset, there is indeed value in the knowledge that they can rally together for wins, home or on the road.
And that confidence comes about from playing the game as a unit, something they all reminded one another of in the middle of the third quarter on Saturday when they came back to defeat Indiana 108-98.
In the third, Boston outscored the Pacers 37-21.
And following the time-out with 6:53 to play in the third, Boston responded with a 25-10 run and never looked back.
Boston’s Al Horford declined to say what was said during that timeout, but acknowledged its importance to winning that night.
“That stays in the huddle,” Horford said. “But just everybody keep it in perspective that we need to go out there and play the right way.”
Here are five other under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as the top two teams in the East face off as Boston hosts the Detroit Pistons.
HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY AVERY BRADLEY
The 6-foot-2 guard is playing his first season with a team not called the Boston Celtics. And wouldn’t you know it, his first time back in town would be the day after his birthday. Bradley will get an extremely warm welcome from fans when he’s introduced tonight, not only because of what he accomplished as a player with the Celtics but also for being such a well-liked and respected person during his seven seasons. Considering Boston is where his NBA career was born, it’s only fitting that he arrived in town on Sunday which was when he turned 27 years old.
CUT ABOVE THE REST
One of the keys to Detroit’s success this season has been their ability to utilize players cutting to the basket. In fact, the Pistons average 1.35 points per cut plays this season which ranks fifth in the NBA. Boston is very much at the opposite end of the cut-to-the-basket-for-buckets spectrum, averaging 1.11 points per cut play which ranks 29th in the NBA.
Boston’s bench has received criticism recently due to its inability to catch fire offensively. Well, it looks like Terry Rozier has gotten the memo and has literally taken matters into his own hands. After scoring no more than 16 points on two occasions through his first 132 NBA games, Rozier has tallied a career-high 23 points on Friday night against Orlando, and followed that up with a 17-point performance on Saturday at Indiana. No one anticipates Rozier will continue scoring at such a high clip, but he has the potential to do so which is reason enough to believe that the scoring troubles experienced by Boston’s second unit, may be on the verge of turning around with Rozier leading the way.
ON THE RUN
Keep an eye on how both teams fare when it comes to getting out in transition. Detroit averages 1.13 points per transition play which ranks fifth in the NBA according to NBA.com/stats. Meanwhile, Boston averages 1.10 points per transition play which ranks 12th in the league. Defensively, both teams have done a nice job this season limiting opponents making the most of fast-break scoring opportunities. Boston is allowing opponents 8.4 fast-break points per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, while the Pistons are giving up 9.3 fast-break points per game which is eighth in the league.
PICK AND ROLL
The pick-and-roll is a staple of every NBA team’s playbook, which only adds to the difficulty in executing it effectively. But the Detroit Pistons have been really good at it, especially their ball-handlers in pick-and-roll sets. This season, Detroit pick-and-roll ball-handlers are shooting a league-best 47.6 percent from the field. But as we’ve noted, Boston’s defense has been effective on so many levels – and this is one of them. Boston’s defense has limited pick-and-roll ball-handlers to 35.5 percent shooting this season which ranks second in the NBA to Golden State (33.1 percent)