GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
The Boston Celtics have a tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot, and their next attempt to at least maintain it will come without their top rookie.
With Marcus Smart suspended for an underhanded deed, the Celtics will look to continue their home surge against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
Boston (30-38) holds the eighth and final playoff position in the East, a half-game ahead of both Indiana and Charlotte and one in front of Brooklyn.
A return home could be just what the Celtics need after losing back-to-back games on the road, including a 101-89 loss at San Antonio on Friday. They've won nine of their last 10 at TD Garden, allowing an average of 93.5 points -- 8.2 lower than their overall mark.
Boston has also won seven of the past nine home matchups with Detroit (25-44), taking the latest 109-102 in overtime Dec. 3.
The Celtics, though, will be without Smart after he was suspended one game by the league for punching Spurs forward Matt Bonner in the crotch. The guard was ejected, but afterward claimed no wrongdoing.
"It was just a freak accident," he said.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn't agree.
"For me, from my standpoint, it looks like an unacceptable play," Stevens said. "That's what I said. I had not seen it when I spoke to the team and spoke to Marcus, but you can't do that -- simple as that."
It certainly is a blow to lose Smart, who is averaging 15.3 points while hitting 10 of 18 3-point attempts over the past three games.
It's unclear who will replace him in the backcourt, but Evan Turner could shift over from his forward spot. Turner had 17 points while hitting 7 of 11 from the floor Friday, but he committed four turnovers. Turner is averaging 14.8 points in his last eight against the Pistons, but he managed just nine off the bench Dec. 3.
Kelly Olynyk may be looking forward to facing them after going scoreless Friday. The second-year center had 20 points with seven rebounds and four assists against Detroit in December.
While the Celtics are vying for the postseason, the Pistons are 5 1/2 games back and seemingly out of contention with 13 games left in the regular season. They've provided a glimmer of hope to change that, winning two of three after rallying from 19 down in the third quarter to beat Chicago 107-91 on Saturday.
"That was just a tremendous victory, and it only happened because we got contributions from so many players," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Everyone who played, played a big part in that win."