Game 30: Celtics vs. Pistons

at The Palace of Auburn Hills, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

Kevin Garnett has been enjoying a nice revival for the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics, looking healthier -- and posting better numbers -- than he did last season.

The last time he faced the Detroit Pistons, it was his prolific trash-talking that got most of the attention.

The Celtics finish their three-game road trip Wednesday night with their first matchup against the Pistons since Garnett's public spat with Charlie Villanueva.

After battling knee problems for parts of the last two years, Garnett is averaging 15.4 points and 9.8 rebounds -- up from 14.3 and 7.3 last season -- and his 14 double-doubles are already more than the 10 he had in 69 games in 2009-10.

He had a game-high 22 points to help Boston (24-5) win 109-86 in Detroit on Nov. 2, but his on-court comments to Villanueva made bigger headlines. Villanueva, who has no hair due to a medical condition known as alopecia universalis, said on Twitter that Garnett called him a "cancer patient."

Garnett responded in a statement, saying he told Villanueva he was "cancerous to your team and our league." Celtics coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, said players shouldn't reveal what is said on the court.

"I actually heard what Kevin said. I was right there, what he really said is in the statement," Rivers said. "I don't like the whole tweeting thing. I'm going to state that as well. Guys talk on the court. It doesn't mean they should or shouldn't. The fact that we're talking about this, it's just silly. ... We had a hell of a game (Nov. 2) and we should be talking about basketball."

Garnett has provided a distinct basketball advantage for Boston against the Pistons lately. The Celtics have won the last eight meetings in which the power forward has suited up by an average of 14.5 points, losing the two he missed due to injury in that stretch.

The Celtics have other health concerns -- especially involving star point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained left ankle Tuesday in Indiana.

Thanks to a 29-16 fourth-quarter edge, Boston still bounced back after its 14-game winning streak was snapped on Christmas in Orlando. In the 95-83 win over the Pacers, Paul Pierce had 21 points and seven assists, leading seven Celtics who scored at least eight points.

"The winning track is always a good track to be on," Pierce said. "You don't want to be on that train when you're losing and you're going downhill fast. I don't think we've been playing great. We can play a lot better."

Read the full preview HERE.


  • KG vs. Villanueva: Garnett is likely to say there's no extra motivation here going up against a "nobody" like Villanueva, but you can't help but expect his emotions to be in full throttle for this one. Garnett isn't one to get into a war or words, but he can let his play do the talking. Will his added motivation lead to a big game for Garnett, or simply leave him overzealous?

  • Two hands on the ball: The Pistons don't do a whole lot well -- their overall record, as well as their placement in the bottom third of the league in most major stat categories, proves that. But one thing Detroit actually thrives in is limiting turnovers. The Pistons are fourth in the league, allowing only 12.8 turnovers per game (only Utah, Miami, and Cleveland are better). The Celtics have a propensity to turn the ball over and, playing their sixth straight game without point guard Rajon Rondo, won't aid that cause. Boston can't let Detroit take advantage of one of its few strengths.

  • Stopping Stuckey: Without Rondo, the Celtics' biggest matchup problem is Rodney Stuckey, who is averaging team bests at 16.1 points and 5.2 assists per game. Stuckey is struggling with is perimeter shooting this year and Boston forced him to go 6-of-15 shooting for 15 points and three assists in the first meeting. Stuckey is also coming off a tough performance in a loss to Charlotte (1-for-6, six points, three turnovers) and Boston needs to keep him from getting back on track.