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Celtics guard Ray Allen has been quiet the last two games. Will he break out vs. Detroit?The Boston Celtics (15-12, 11-7 home) will bring their suitcases with them on Wednesday night as a five-game road trip looms after a visit from the Detroit Pistons (8-22, 2-12 away) at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). To preview the matchup, we go 3-on-3 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb:
1. Beyond rebound machine Greg Monroe, what scares you most about this Pistons team?
Payne: I'm just always weary of any young team that could be underestimated by a veteran group like Boston. When a team like that comes in with an underwhelming record, there's always the potential for it to be underestimated, so I'd be concerned about the C's taking Detroit too lightly and giving the Pistons confidence as the game goes on, which could help them hang on for longer than they probably should.
Robb: Lawrence Frank. The C's former top lieutenant has this semi-talented crew playing hard, having won four of their last six games and almost putting together a monster comeback last night against the Spurs. And if there's anyone who know this Celtic team nearly inside-out it's Frank who saw the best (and worst) this team had to offer last season. The Pistons will come out ready tonight to take advantage of this knowledge and that combined with their offensive rebounding prowess (8th in offensive rebounding rate) should keep Boston on guard.
Forsberg: Doc Rivers is in the middle of an extensive "pick up the tab" stretch with former top assistants Tom Thibodeau and Frank comprising four straight games (after tonight the Celtics go visit Chicago and Detroit). But the biggest thing to me tonight is simply keeping Detroit off the glass overall. Sure, Monroe has accounted for a third of their offensive rebounds, but the Pistons are still sixth overall in the league in that category and Jonas Jerebko and Jason Maxiell can attack the offensive glass as well. Boston can't allow second-chance opportunities, especially given its dinged-up frontcourt.
2. Will this Celtics team ever be healthy this season?
Payne: Nope. Not completely, anyway. It's looking more and more like Jermaine O'Neal, more than anyone else, will be dealing with nagging injuries for the whole season. If it's not one of his knees, it'll be his shoulder, and if it's not his shoulder, it'll be his wrist. It's not necessarily O'Neal's fault, but even he's admitted in recent days that this is the reality of the situation.
Robb: Doubtful. For as challenging as the schedule appears to have been in the first two months, the road only gets tougher in March and April.... literally. The majority of that slate comes away from the TD Garden and many will be coming in the form of additional back-to-backs. While the C's may dodge a major injury the rest of the way, the likelihood of fatigue combined with the expected bumps and bruises should make complete health for this squad a pipe dream.
Forsberg: At least we're all in agreement. I think it's funny when people start wondering where younger Player X will get their minutes when someone returns from injury. Well, veteran Player Y is probably going to get dinged up at some point, so just sit tight. It all goes back to a philosophy that both coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge have preached all season: The Celtics will need all 15 players to contribute. They might only lean on eight of them in the postseason, but for the next two months, it's all hands on deck to make sure the Celtics get a decent seat on that playoff ship.
3. We're one month shy of the trade deadline. Look into your crystal ball: Do you see the Celtics making a move?
Payne: I don't think so. They're playing much better of late, compared to the first weeks of the season, and I like the depth they have at each position, with guys like Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox, and JaJuan Johnson all showing so far that they're capable of contributing on a consistent basis. The emergence of Wilcox is particularly encouraging, as I would have said the C's might want to try to upgrade their front court, but he's become a guy who contributes without needing things planned for him, and his energy plays make it difficult for opponents to set up defenses to deal with him. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett have all shown they can still be relied upon to perform at a high level, which leads me to think Danny Ainge will take his finger off the trade trigger and roll the dice with this crew one last time.
Robb: Yes. It still remains to be seen whether it will be major or minor move, but Ainge has almost always delivered one of the two in recent years. The next three weeks of Celtics play should give us good indication of which route Ainge will be leaning towards. Good health and a strong road record will perhaps convince Ainge to give his guys one final run with some minor tweaking. Otherwise, we could be seeing a major upheaval. No matter what though, you can count on Ainge to be exploring all the possibilities before the deadline arrives.
Forsberg: All last season we heard how much the Celtics loved their roster. Then all it took was one injury (Marquis Daniels) and by the time the deadline passed, the Celtics had shipped out five bodies, overhauling a third of their roster less than two months before the postseason. So while I believe Rivers and Ainge when they say they like this year's roster, I think a lot can change in a month. As you guys noted, if the Celtics stay healthy and competitive, I don't see any reason to rock the boat -- maybe Boston even learned the danger in that last year, not just with Kendrick Perkins, but overhauling the back end of the bench as well, getting virtually nothing from the players that were brought in, particularly off the buyout scrapheap. I think Ainge will examine if there's any way to add another impact player, maybe a legit big man that can join the core members of this team (the starters, plus Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus, with the likes of Chris Wilcox and Avery Bradley banging on the playoff-rotation door). Boston does have those two first-round picks next season that could be used to lure an experienced veteran, but, as always, salary cap flexibility will be a premium and limit Boston's overall mobility.