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Pistons at Celtics Preview: Detroit looks for fifth straight win before the All-Star break

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past week and a half, the Pistons have played their way back into the playoff picture. They currently hold a one game advantage over the Heat for the eighth seed and are only 1.5 games back of the sixth-place Brooklyn Nets. In fact, following their recent stretch of wins, and the acquisition of Wayne Ellington, FiveThirtyEight’s playoff odds give Detroit a 68 percent chance to make the post-season, and predict them to finish as the seventh seed in the East.

Detroit has lost two of their three games against the C’s this season, but if they’re able to snatch a win in Boston (who’s playing on a second night of a back to back), they’d put themselves in excellent position to continue this momentum through the All-Star break and beyond.

Game Vitals

When: February 13, 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass

Analysis

While it might be easy to chalk up Detroit’s recent resurgence to the fact that three of their last four wins have came against the Knicks (twice) and Wizards, you should take solace that their original dynamite duo of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond recently have played their best basketball of the season.

Over Jackson’s last seven games, he’s averaged 20 points, 6.3 assists and +10.9 plus/minus while shooting 52 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three and 100 percent from the stripe. This has helped propel Detroit to the 13th best offensive rating (113.5) during that stretch. More importantly than Jackson’s stats is how he’s looked on the floor - his crossover has been more effective than it’s been all year, he’s utilized the newfound pep in his step to run productive pick n’ rolls with Drummond, and has looked more comfortable taking it to the glass.

Then you have Drummond, who looks like he’s out for vengeance, perhaps targeted at the coaches who kept him out of the this year’s All-star game. Over his last eight games, his averages have jumped to 23 points, 15.5 boards, 1.8 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. He’s shooting an outstanding 68 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the free throw line. Due to Jackson’s ability to get into the paint, Blake Griffin’s passing ability and Coach Casey simplifying the offense for Drummond, he’s being put in position for easy jams and has converted when he’s established deep position in the paint. Drummond should continue to put up gaudy numbers tonight, seeing how the Celtics lack the size to handle him down low.

Now you may have noticed that the Celtics have recently been in the news for the wrong reasons. Following a couple of blown leads to both L.A. squads and some interesting quotes from Marcus Morris, it would appear from the outside that the wheels are ready to fall off, but their results firmly state otherwise. Boston has won eleven of their last fourteen games, most recently grinding their way to a 112-109 win against the vaunted Sixers in Philadelphia last night.

If Boston is going to reach their full potential this season, they’ll need Gordon Hayward to produce like he has over his last four games. Coming off the bench, Hayward’s averaging an efficient 16.8 points, shooting 61 percent from the floor and 53 percent from three during that stretch. He’s coming off one of his best performances of the season, where he netted six of his seven three point attempts and seems like the perfect X-factor for this game - if he’s playing this well as a fourth or fifth option it will be difficult for Detroit to overcome that quality of depth.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (26-29):
Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway, Bruce Brown Jr., Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Boston Celtics (36-21):
Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford

Prediction

Detroit 105, Boston 112