Game 16 of 82 (19.5%), Wednesday, December 3, 430 PST
Pistons @ Celtics
The Detroit Pistons came into this game with three wins and fifteen losses. The Boston Celtics came in with four victories. If “winning begets winning,” as the cliche goes, these two teams have been not begun begetting in a while. Those records are relatively similar. However, all losses are not created equal. On their season, the Pistons have lost to the Orlando Magic. By 14 points. While playing in Detroit. They’ve lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves (while Rubio was on the court). They’ve lost twice to the mighty Milwaukee Bucks (at least the Bucks are playing inspired defense with Sanders and Giannis).
The Celtics have been bad, but at least they can qualify those brutal losses by explaining they were playing better teams. The Pistons were not supposed to be THIS bad. Stan Van Gundy believers were optimistic that they’d be competing for the 8th playoff spot in the East. Instead, Stan may be contemplating retirement. Again. The Pistons are the worst shooting team in the league, at 40.6%. Even the Philadelphia 76ers (who are on a 1-game winning streak after squeaking out a win against the sans-Rubio Wolves), are shooting more efficiently than the Detroit Bricklayers.
Both teams came in on the second game of back-to-backs. This was not going to be an aesthetically pleasing game. We knew that coming in. The sort of game that NBA.com should have noted and removed the “Watch Highlights” option for.
The Pistons have two legitimately huge men. One is the enormous and still very raw Andre Drummond. The other is the much more polished and much lower-ceilinged Greg Monroe. The Pistons scored 20 of their first 24 points from the paint.
Quite simply, the Celtics were desperate for a win. Other than an asterisk W (*over Philadelphia), the Celtics last secured a victory back on November 8th, in Chicago. On the other hand, Boston’s losses came against better teams. Some of the NBA’s best. When your team’s most optimistic expectations are to win 38-40 games in a weakened Eastern Conference, you know the majority of those wins are going to come against the Detroits, Orlandos, and Philadelphias of the NBA. Still, the brutal stretch has been made worse by the stretches of excellent play, especially in terms of fluid offense.
Kelly Olynyk played his best strech of basketball in two weeks, providing great movement, assertiveness, and dropping in two from beyond the arc. Olynyk was hyper-active, cutting, passing, hands deflecting Detroit’s passes, and blocking shots (3!). He finished with 20 points in 27 minutes on 13 attempts, and provided the early 4th quarter cushion the Celtics would desperately need.
During the rest of the 4th, Boston’s defenders were kind enough to allow Greg Monroe his best Wilt Chamberlain impression. I’m not sure why Stevens chose not to double, as the Pistons had yet to connect on two jumpers in a row all night.
The 80-68 lead with 4:54 remaining felt more like a deficit. This is how fans develop the sports version of PTSD (losing big leads on a regular basis, especially in the 4th quarter). Stan Van Gundy decided his only option (rightfully so on a night that Brandon Jennings shot 0-for-11) was the the broad-shouldered Monroe. Here’s what happened in the last 3:13 of the 4th quarter:
|3:13||Greg Monroe makes 4-foot jumper||75-84|
|3:13||75-84||Brandon Bass shooting foul (Greg Monroe draws the foul)|
|3:13||Greg Monroe makes free throw 1 of 1||76-84|
|2:58||76-84||Evan Turner misses 25-foot three point jumper|
|2:57||76-84||Rajon Rondo offensive rebound|
|2:48||76-84||Brandon Bass misses 19-foot jumper|
|2:47||Greg Monroe defensive rebound||76-84|
|2:33||Greg Monroe makes 4-foot two point shot||78-84|
|2:14||78-84||Jeff Green turnover (Andre Drummond steals)|
|2:00||78-84||Rajon Rondo shooting foul (Greg Monroe draws the foul)|
|2:00||78-84||Jared Sullinger enters the game for Brandon Bass|
|2:00||78-84||Kelly Olynyk enters the game for Tyler Zeller|
|2:00||Greg Monroe makes free throw 1 of 2||79-84|
|2:00||Greg Monroe makes free throw 2 of 2||80-84|
|1:49||80-84||Greg Monroe blocks Kelly Olynyk ‘s 3-foot layup|
|1:47||Pistons defensive team rebound||80-84|
|1:47||80-84||Brandon Bass enters the game for Jared Sullinger|
|1:47||80-84||Tyler Zeller enters the game for Kelly Olynyk|
|1:47||80-84||Avery Bradley enters the game for Evan Turner|
|1:31||Greg Monroe makes 4-foot two point shot||82-84|
|1:07||Caron Butler shooting foul (Jeff Green draws the foul)||82-84|
|1:07||82-85||Jeff Green makes free throw 1 of 2|
|1:07||82-85||Jared Sullinger enters the game for Brandon Bass|
|1:07||82-86||Jeff Green makes free throw 2 of 2|
|0:52||Greg Monroe makes two point shot||84-86|
A 4-foot shot is pretty close to the rim. 48 inches. That’s about as tall as a 4th grader. Monroe will be a free-agent next summer, and will provide some team with a dependable post-option. Maybe it will be the Celtics. On the other hand, Monroe is not a great defender.
With 15 ticks left on the clock, the ancient Caron Butler hit a three-pointer that was wide open because of Monroe’s excellent pick on Jeff Green. I’m not sure why there was no switch on defense (no communication). Jared Sullinger was firmly entrenched in the paint while Green wasn’t able to see the pick coming. Defensive breakdown of the highest order. But that wasn’t the end.
After the nightmare that is the 4th quarter ended, the Celtics were relieved to find they had not lost this one. They were given five extra minutes, and came out shooting like they do in the first quarter in so many games. Free-and-easy and full of threes.
Jared Sullinger drained three long-range jumpers, while Jeff Green and Olynyk each tossed in one of their own, and the Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, and all of us fans, breathed a sigh of relief. Green finished with 32 points on 6 of 10 from deep, and 10 of 10 from the line (many in OT), but only 2 of 12 from inside the arc. Sullinger was practically invisible until overtime, but those OT shots redeemed him.
The cloud has passed. A win to ease all frustrations.
Friday brings the 3rd game in 4 nights. Never an enviable situation. The rival Los Angeles Lakers come to town. Kobe’s last visit to Boston. I’m sensing a Rondo triple-double. Let’s hope Green, Sullinger and Olynyk keep the shooting rhythms they found last night.