Boston Celtics: 2013Game11
Playing their fourth game in five nights (and seventh in 10 days), a heavy-legged Celtics squad trudged through a 103-83 thumping at the hands of the 2-9 Pistons, who hadn't previously won a game on their home turf at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
"Dead man walking -- that's what it felt like, really," Rivers told reporters in Detroit. "Give Detroit credit, I thought they played extremely hard. I could see it early, I even told our coaches, when we started subbing guys in and out, we just had no legs. We would take all the shots that we had; none were going in.
"In the third quarter I said, 'Guys, are you getting wide-open shots?' and they all said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Are any going in?' and they said, 'No.' I said,' Why?' And I said, 'You're tired. Take a step in. Try to do something to get closer to the basket.' I tried to junk the game up and go small and even that -- we just didn't have it."
But Rivers refused to get overly worked up about the loss considering the conditions.
"Oh, it's not a step back at all," Rivers said. "I mean, we lost one game. That's all it is."
Rivers did take solace in the fact that no other stretch of Boston's schedule will be this daunting.
"I thought some guys fought through it," Rivers said. "You can learn mental toughness and all that, but, listen, we won't have another stretch like this the entire season. That's the toughest stretch -- seven games in 10 days -- we won't do that again this entire season. So, when I saw the schedule, I saw that last game, I said, 'This is going to be a hard game for us to win.' I said it before, but I thought we could figure out a way of pulling it out. We just couldn't."
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jared Sullinger paced the Celtics with 16 points and five rebounds, while Kevin Garnett added 15 points and Rajon Rondo came through with a 12-point, 10-assist double-double. Six Pistons players scored in double-figures, including Greg Monroe (20 points, 13 rebounds), Jason Maxiell (15 points, six rebounds), and Rodney Stuckey (14 points, five rebounds, five assists) off the bench. As a team, the Celtics shot 45.1 percent from the field, made only four of their 17 3-point attempts, were out-rebounded 39-30, and turned the ball over 18 times, good for 23 Piston points.
The Celtics entered the third quarter trailing 48-43 and saw themselves outscored 23-14 over the next 12 minutes. Boston shot just 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) in the third frame, continuing a trend of uninspired play that had been manifesting itself since the opening tip. The Pistons carried a 71-57 lead into the fourth quarter and kept their advantage in the mid-teens over the first six minutes. Doc Rivers elected to go small at the 7:00 mark of the final frame, but that did little to stop the Pistons from extending their lead. Though their offense picked up more than it had in the third frame, the Celtics couldn't secure the necessary stops down the stretch to make any sort of serious run and get themselves back into the game.
Though Boston didn't look particularly energized on either side of the ball Sunday, but its offense will likely come through as the bigger letdown. The Celtics didn't necessarily take bad shots Sunday -- their regulars often got their usual looks -- but it felt like they could have gotten better looks at the rim. Whether it was fatigue (more on that in a minute) or another factor, the Celtics seemed content settling for outside shots. Through the first three quarters, Boston managed just 20 points in the paint, and had already turned the ball over 15 times.
FATIGUE PLAGUING CELTICS
The C's played like a tired bunch all night, perhaps finally feeling the effects of playing their fourth game in five nights. Even against a struggling team like Detroit, Sunday's game was going to be one of those grind-it-out affairs for the Celtics, but they were unable to dig in and fend off a Pistons team that refused to fade when it got a sizable lead.
When it was clear victory was not an option, the Celtics focused on getting Rondo to 10 assists to continue his pursuit of John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Rondo entered the final frame with just six helpers, and it took him nearly the whole fourth quarter to reach double figures. After Boston came up empty on a handful of its final possessions, Sullinger finally knocked down a straightaway jumper with under a minute left to secure Rondo's record. He's now recorded double figures in assists in 34 straight games and is steadily closing in on Stockton's mark of 37 straight, and slowly gaining on Johnson's all-time record of 46.
PIERCE LEAVES EARLY; DARKO MISSES GAME
Pierce landed awkwardly driving into the lane during the fourth quarter and seemed to tweak his right ankle. He retreated to the locker room early and did not return... Center Darko Milicic was not with the team while tending to a family matter, while Jason Collins, who missed Saturday's game for the same reasons, rejoined the team in Detroit.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME
As strange as it might seem, given the score of the game, Sullinger's jumper to secure Rondo's streak was one Boston's most important baskets. With the team flat all night, it was evident the Celtics just wanted to keep Rondo's record alive, and after Green and Terry couldn't put in baskets, Sullinger finally stepped up and canned a jumper from just above the free throw line.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics wanted to finish off this four-games-in-five-nights stretch with a victory, but they'll have to settle for a frustrating loss instead. It's clear Boston needs a day off, which they'll get on Monday, before heading back to the practice floor on Tuesday. There aren't many positives Boston can pull away from this one, so better to just rest up and move on with two of their more difficult home games of the young season approaching this week: San Antonio on Wednesday and Oklahoma City on Friday.
* C'S WELL RESTED: The Celtics are 2-1 on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road so far this season, but energy levels shouldn't be an overwhelming problem here. The Celtics had a matinee matchup Saturday, giving them a little extra recovery time before Sunday night's game, and Kevin Garnett (17 minutes) and Paul Pierce (25) both played mangeable minutes in that lopsided win over the Raptors. The one person to watch remains Rajon Rondo, whose ankle looked just fine in handing out 20 assists in Saturday's win, but coach Doc Rivers would seemingly tread carefully with him in a back-to-back situation.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Pistons rank in the lower third of the league in terms of total offense (0.882 points per play, 22nd overall), according to Synergy Sports data. Ironically, Detroit actually is in the top third of the league in spot-up shooting (10th), but doesn't do much well beyond that. Defensively, old friend Lawrence Frank hasn't been able to put his stamp on this squad, which ranks 25th in the league. The Pistons have actually done a solid job defending both spot-up and transition opportunities -- Boston's two most common play types -- but Detroit simply hasn't been very good in the halfcourt set overall and the Celtics will look to exploit with their Rondo-fueled ball movement.
* MORE OF THAT BENCH MOB: The Celtics' five-man bench of Chris Wilcox, Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa, and Jeff Green turned in maybe their finest effort of the season Saturday, combining for 41 points and breaking the game open late in the third quarter (giving the group extended playing time in the fourth quarter). Against an inferior opponent, Boston would be well served if it could lean on that bench mob again.
* FREE DARKO?: Back in his old stomping grounds of Detroit, why not turn Darko Milicic loose tonight if the opportunity presents itself? If nothing else, the Celtics might need an extra big man (or some extra fouls) if Greg Monroe gets going.
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