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Pistons vs Celtics preview: Boston is streaking, but vulnerable

The Celtics will be without at least one key piece tonight.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tragic loss in Charlotte, the Pistons absolutely need to find the thread and get off the losing streak. The schedule is not letting up (and it won’t for a while, so quit askin’) but just like the Pistons weren’t going to be a 13-7 team forever, they will not be an 0-6 team forever.

Tonight’s a good night.

Game Vitals:

When: December 15, 2018, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass


The Boston Celtics are flying in on a back-to-back after playing the Atlanta Hawks Friday. The Celtics are hot - they’ve won nine of their last 10 games - but they’re also hurting: Al Horford has not played in their previous two games and is expected to miss tonight. Missing Horford is a weakness the Pistons can exploit - Horford is the neural network that binds the Celtics defense together. Marcus Smart may get all the highlight charges, steals, and jeers from the crowd, but Horford makes that defense.

Here, Horford cuts off Blake’s driving angle and recovers to block Dre’s dunk attempt in a split-second:

On this play, Horford drops juuuuuust enough to cover Zaza Pachulia on the roll and alter Reggie Jackson’s shot, then delays his run in transition juuuuust enough to get him a bunny in the ensuing chaos:

Without Horford, the Celtics will be compelled to lean on Aron Baynes and the T I M E L O R D to make these subtle, but winning plays. None of that will matter, though, if the Pistons continue to exacerbate their weaknesses.

In my mind, the biggest reason for the Pistons’ latest swoon has been the inability to create good looks - a symptom of the lack of shot-making that’s plagued Detroit forever. The Pistons led after halftime in the the second Boston game in October, but they lost because they only scored 13 (!!!) points in the third quarter. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but in that quarter, the offense devolved into too-early shots, precious little ball and player movement, dead-and-live ball turnovers, and far too much of their best thing (Blake Griffin):

These six-minute-long droughts the Pistons go through are the reason why they’ve fallen as of late.

Yes, you need to defend, but in the NBA in 2018, if you go a quarter scoring under 15 points, you just lose. Yes, you need to surround Blake Griffin with better shooters than Reggie Jackson (shooting 38 percent on catch-and-shoot three pointers, mind you) and Stanley Johnson. Yes, probable starter Luke Kennard helps in that department. Yes, the likely return of Reggie Bullock helps in that department.

You know what also might help? Doing more to help Blake rather than demanding he do more for you.

Santa Dre can still hand out gifts:

Reggie Jackson can do more than just spot up from behind the three-point line:

You can even - GASP - use their skill sets together simultaneously:

I am convinced Dwane Casey isn’t running this play twice a quarter to raise my blood pressure and my blood pressure alone.

Anyway, if the offense doesn’t lull for six minutes at a time, the Pistons have the ability and capability to beat this Boston team sans Horford. If the Pistons make more shots, they’ll win more games, and it’s really not much more difficult than that.

Projected Lineups:

Detroit Pistons (13-13):
Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Boston Celtics (18-10):
Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes


Detroit 108, Boston 114, Laz sad.