The Celtics are just about the definition of a tough team in the current NBA landscape. And the Pistons were juuuuust about able to out-tough them.
Boston led by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, when the Pistons started their comeback. Andre Drummond led the push, playing with energy on defense and on the boards. But Brad Stevens turned to hacking and Drummond, who had struggled at the line all night, couldn’t keep himself on the court.
But it was a spark for his teammates, who kept the run going. The Celtics had pushed out to double digits midway through the second quarter and the game had all the makings of a rout.
After taking Boston’s punches, the folks from Detroit delivered a few of their own. Marcus Morris delivered a few understated hustle plays. Ish Smith played some brilliant defense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a bad, bad dude.
It looked like KCP might put the Pistons in the drivers seat to get the win. Down two with under three minutes to go, he drew the foul on a three point play and knocked down all of them to get his team the lead. Smart got a tip on the other end, but Caldwell-Pope hit a three for the Pistons to push their lead to two with two minutes left.
But no more offense for Detroit down the stretch. A nifty Jaylen Brown corner three while drawing a Morris foul would prove to be the dagger. It was just dancing home from there.
The Celtics have had a world of trouble in the fourth quarter when Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been able to take over, and the Pistons held him in check tonight. KCP held him in check.
It was appropriate on Rip Hamilton Night, with reminiscences from the Going to Work Crew. Rip talked about how in the 2004 Finals, Ben Wallace demanded to be able to man up against Shaquille O’Neal, Tayshaun Prince demanded to take Kobe Bryant on his own. KCP played some magnificent defense against Thomas in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons played well but fell to a superior team right now. If the two pair up in the playoffs, it’d be a great thing for this young Pistons squad to learn the next step on toughness. And have some band-aids ready.
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