By: Kenny Doyle
The Celtics lost 118-108 to the Detroit Pistons last night and, while Detroit has proven to be a good team this season, the Celtics letting the Pistons push them around to the extent that they did was stunning. The Celtics came into last night’s game with the league’s best defense, but apparently no one told the Pistons that. Deroit put up numbers on the Celtics that no one else has all season.
The Pistons’ 118 points are the most the Celtics have given up this season as well as Detroit’s 2nd highest point total of the season behind only a 122 point game against the Minnesota Timberwolves who currently have the 6th worst defense in the NBA. It’s not as if Detroit has some juggernaut offense. The Celtics held the Warriors to 89 points and they barely kept the 17th ranked Detroit offense under 120.
Losing to the Pistons in and of itself isn’t a terrible loss. The Pistons are a good team that spaces the floor and can create mismatches for their best players, but the Celtics highly regarded “switchability” on defense went out the window last night as Detroit continuously abused the Celtics reliance on switching as evidences by the Tobias Harris’ possessions at 0:20 and 1:50 here:
Tobias Harris wasn’t the only one toying with the Celtics last night as Andre Drummond finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds (both season highs) and may have singlehandedly destroyed Al Horford Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Drummond was licking his chops at the opportunity to be guarded by Horford and Drummond absolutely bullied him on 2 of the plays shown here:
As also evidenced in that clip, the Celtics defense wasn’t their only problem. On Andre Drummond's steal Kyrie made a poor effort to get open, Al Horford made a weak attempt to come back for the ball, and Marcus Smart made a bad pass all culminating in Andre Drummond out hustling Al Horford, getting the steal, and it was all capped off with a stupid foul by Kyrie Irving leading to the and-1 for Andre Drummond. That play put the Pistons up 7 and the Celtics never got the score back within 1 possession.
They had a chance to get it back to a 3 point game a couple of times down the stretch, but with 1 minute to go Irving, who was 0-4 with 1 point in the 4th quarter, missed a three pointer out of a double team right off the inbound pass and then on the ensuing possession Marcus Smart did this:
It was clear, the Celtics didn’t show up last night. These are plays that the Celtics just don’t make. They’re dumb plays and the Celtics don’t usually make these kind of dumb decisions in games, especially down the stretch of close games. The best defense in the league shouldn’t be getting it handed to them by Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris. It’s one thing for Detroit to be competing with the Celtics, it’s another to let them come into your home arena and put up season-highs on the scoreboard and in the box score.
The Celtics are capable of playing better defense, taking better shots, and making better decisions. It’s just a matter of wanting to. The Celtics aren’t the Cavaliers or the Warriors, they can’t just take nights off and turn it on when they want to. They’re not as talented as those teams. They need to play hard every night and get home court advantage if they want to stand a chance of making it to the NBA Finals and games like last night just can’t happen. The Cavaliers struggles are over. They’re only 3 games behind the Celtics in the loss column and Isaiah Thomas is getting closer and closer to returning to the court. If the Celtics start losing games because they’re not trying, they lose one of their biggest advantages over the rest of the NBA: Their effort.
It was all too clear which team cared and which team didn’t last night and for the first time in a long time, the team that didn’t care was the Celtics.