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Celtics have the Pistons right where they want them

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The Pistons have had the unfortunate habit of stumbling against the league's have-nots this season. Two defeats to the Bobcats coupled with one each to the Blazers and Bucks have kept the Pistons from stretching their lead in the Eastern Conference before the All-Star break. So it should be no surprise that the Pistons and their beat writers are proceeding with extreme caution heading into tonight's matchup against the Celtics.

Flip Saunders (from today's Detroit News):

The concern is, they are going to win sometime," Saunders said. "I don't think they are going to go the rest of the season without winning another game."

Saunders' message to the Pistons on Monday was to be prepared.

"When you play a team that's lost a lot, both you and your coaches, the players, the fans, everybody expects the game to be easy," Saunders said.

"They expect you to go up 25-0 and the game will be over in the first five minutes. That's not going to happen. We have to approach the game just like we approached the Cleveland game, like it's going to be a grind-it-out game."

Krista Jahnke, of the Detroit Free Press:

If history is any indication, that means the Pistons tonight will face a hungry, young group of Celtics who are eager to end a losing streak against one of the conference's best teams.

Those kinds of teams -- the Bobcats and Hawks, for instance -- have given the Pistons trouble this season. The difference, the Pistons hope, is that they're playing their best.

A. Sherrod Blakely, of MLive;

The Boston Celtics really are capable of beating anyone -- even if their franchise-record 14 consecutive losses might suggest otherwise.

...

Teams like the Celtics, with injuries and inept play the only things they can bank on recently, have given the Pistons problems all season. Some of Detroit's most disappointing losses have come at home to some of the NBA's worst teams -- Charlotte, Portland, and Milwaukee.

The Pistons have already lost nine games at home this season, compared to just four all last season and nine the season before that.

So is this rhetoric evidence of a new mindset for the Boys in Blue? Are they now determined to crush the Paul Pierce-less C's from the opening tip?

Or is this just paranoid sandbagging based upon previous stumbles; a prelude to another uninspired and potentially defeat-worthy performance?

No surprise, Celtic fans are probably hoping for the former. Their season in shambles, the most avid of C's fans are content to lose as many games as possible in order to win the NBA draft lottery and the chance to draft either Ohio State's Greg Oden or Texas' Kevin Durant. Given the way that Boston's season has progressed thus far, I expect many of their fans will seek refuge from the present-day club and take a peek at the future on ESPN2, where Michigan and Oden's Buckeye squad also tip at 7pm tonight.

As ususal, leave your thoughts on tonight's game(s) in the comments.

Pistons turn focus to home [Detroit News]
Hungy Celtics could mean trouble [Detroit Free Press]
Pistons wary of Celtics, despite 14-game losing streak [MLive]
U-M faces big problem tonight [Detroit Free Press]