“Marcus Smart was like Kyle Korver out there.” – Detroit Pistons head coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy on Nov. 27.
Those were words you probably thought you would never hear said about Smart.
But that’s how Van Gundy saw things after Smart lit up Detroit for a season-high 23 points which included six made 3’s.
Smart is no Kyle Korver, but the impact the 23-year-old can make on the game is undeniable.
Boston (22-5) will need some of that today when they take on the Detroit Pistons who are the only team to hang a double-digit loss on the Celtics this season.
When the two teams met on Nov. 27, Detroit pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 118-108 win over Boston.
And it is the end result, a Celtics loss, that Smart remembers the most about that game.
“It’s all cool and all,” Smart said after his season-high game against Detroit last month. “I’d rather have the win. Obviously, it felt good to be able to get it in rhythm. But like I said, I’d rather have the win.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into today’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons.
Boston has been at or near the top of the defensive rating standings all season. But when it comes to looking at key components to the Celtics defense, forcing turnovers doesn’t stack up too high on the list of accomplishments. That was indeed the case when these two met on Nov. 27. In that game, the Pistons turned the ball over just eight times for eight points. They are currently 12th in the NBA in turnovers committed per game. Meanwhile, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers that led to 26 points for Detroit, which is a trend the Celtics have to reverse if they want to avoid a two-game losing streak for the first time since losing the first two games of the season.
MORE SHOTS FOR AL HORFORD
The ability to play the role of facilitator is one that Al Horford has embraced for quite a while now. But the Celtics need to do a better job of getting him quality shot attempts at the rim because as we know, anything less than that likely results in a pass. This season, we have seen the Celtics are indeed a better team when he gets more shot attempts. The Celtics are 13-2 (.867 winning percentage) when Horford has at least 10 shot attempts. When Horford takes single-digit shot attempts, Boston is 7-3 which averages out to a winning percentage of .700 which isn’t bad but not quite as good as the team’s record when Horford takes at least 10 shots.
For all that did not go Boston’s way the last time these two teams met, what really stuck out was how badly the Celtics were out-performed in the hustle/energy categories. When it came to points in the paint, Boston was beaten 54-44 (although it coming as a surprise to no one); 15-10 on second-chance points and 17-14 fast-break points.
I know Danny Ainge doesn’t think much of plus/minuses from game to game, well aware that they say more about the units on the floor than what any particular player does when he gets in the game. But there are times when they can explain as clearly as any statistical nugget as to why one team emerged with the win and the other lost. In the Nov. 27 game between these two, the Boston Celtics’ entire starting five – yes, all five of them – had a negative plus/minus for the game which was a first for Boston this season.
TO CONTEST … OR NOT
Looking back on the Nov. 27 game between these two teams, you can sort of understand why the Celtics walked away feeling that it was just one of those nights where the stars aligned and favored Detroit. When Detroit took uncontested shots, they shot just 41.7 percent (23-for-55) from the field. But when the Celtics cranked up their defense and did a better job of closing out and contesting shots … the Pistons damn near wouldn’t miss. Detroit made 21-for-30, or 69.9 percent, of shots that Boston contested.