The Detroit Pistons started 2021 in exciting and nerve-wracking fashion with a 96-93 win over the Boston Celtics. Detroit at one point led the Celtics by 21, and they needed almost all of that to hold off the Celtics.
The Pistons came out and punched the Celtics right from the start. Detroit was without Blake Griffin (in concussion protocol), but their ball moment, shooting and defense were firing on all cylinders early. Detroit forced seven first-quarter turnovers, outright pickpocketing the Celtics five times.
Jerami Grant paced Detroit with 10 points and the squad overall shot 12-of-24 in the opening frame as the Pistons were up 15 at the end of one.
The second quarter was a 28-28 draw. The Celtics didn’t fully get cooking until around four minutes left in the half, as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown forced the action with their supreme playmaking and penetration skills. Marcus Smart did a bit of everything and was the Celtics’ best player in the half. Jeff Teague was a positive for the Celtics as well, scoring eight points on four shots, doing a solid job soaking up some of the minutes normally going to the injured Kemba Walker.
The Celtics busted the Pistons to the tune of 33-24 in the third quarter, drawing within six with 12 minutes to play. Jayson Tatum took over. Jaylen Brown took over. They got any shot they wanted and got a whole bunch of them in the paint. It was a clinic of offensive aggression and excellent one-on-one play.
The Pistons’ offense really stalled and no one with the exception of Saddiq Bey and his outside shooting had much of anything going on.
The Celtics controlled the fourth quarter from the get-go with a couple of Tatum triples, however the Pistons didn’t back down, tightening the defense and just doing enough on the back of Derrick Rose and free throws by Bey and Mason Plumlee. Jaylen Brown had a decent look with a couple seconds left to tie the game but didn’t connect.
Detroit was led by Jerami Grant with 24 points, though he needed 24 shots to get it thanks to no love from the refs on many drives into the paint and an overall struggle on the perimeter. Saddiq Bey, meanwhile, canned five of his eight 3-pointers and sunk a clutch free throw late on his way to 17 points. Isaiah Stewart added eight points and five rebounds and a bunch of energy.
The Celtics were led by Tatum (28 points) and Brown (25).
Detroit is undefeated in 2021, folks.
Here are some additional thoughts on each Piston tonight:
Hayes had a few good sequences leading the secondary break but otherwise struggled some on defense and with his jump shot (both off the dribble and catch-and-shoot). He had at least three very decent looks by my count, but he missed badly on a couple of them. I’m glad he’s not hesitating on taking these looks. They’ll drop for him soon.
Bey got his second start of his career and did not disappoint. Bey defended well enough on the perimeter with good lateral movement and positioning.
In the first half he had a couple questionable and overanxious sequences when trying to take his man off the dribble, but as many of us fans have been saying, you have to LOVE his confidence. He’s 21 but just a rookie.
In the third quarter, Bey drilled three treys when the rest of the team was pretty cold.
It wasn’t Josh’s best outing, but he made a few impressive plays in the first half that helped Detroit get their big lead. Josh is so smooth and is able to get his own shot almost any time. The big key moving forward is shot selection, ball security and defensive consistency. Josh has a lot of room to grow and I expect big things from him.
Jerami played fantastic in the first half with 18 points on a combination of slick and forceful drives, plus some rhythm jump shots. The second half was a struggle shooting wise (AND he barely got a call to go his way), but Grant played mostly solid individual and team defense down the stretch. Are we all starting to realize this guy is pretty darn good?!?
Mason quietly had a monster game in 30 minutes. He’s savvy, a good team defender and in the fourth quarter hit a key free throw to put the good guys up three with five seconds left with the Celtics waiting for possession. Five of Plumlee’s 17 rebounds were offensive.
A mostly quiet game on both ends for Delon. He made some nice defensive plays, forcing his man into tough shots — although on the flip side — if I remember correctly — both his turnovers were brutal.
Rose scored 11 first-half points, though had a couple of the usual out of control turnovers that make us all scratch our heads with vigor. He scored a very tough fastbreak lay-in late just under the arm of a trailing Tatum. Rose finished with 17 on just 12 shots. With Hayes struggling so far, Rose needs to be excellent for the team to have a chance at winning some games.
Stewart grabbed six strong boards in nine first-half minutes and also scored two buckets with almost a third that danced off. He contributed another good nine-minute shift in the second. Isaiah looks to be taking the backup big man minutes with everything he has. His physicality is obvious and I’m sure the coaching staff will allow him a longer leash with his all-out effort. When he starts taking and making jump shots (he has that ability), watch out.
Svi made a few tough triples (3-of-6 total) in 18 minutes. He has yet to fully find his groove and, perhaps, place on this team. His shooting is invaluable and he just needs to do other things at a decent clip to keep getting minutes.
Sekou had a couple good looks but didn’t cash in. His highlight came in the fourth quarter on a heady pass on the break to a trailing Stewart that ended up a three-point play with Big Stew cashing in on the free throw.
The Pistons will face the Celtics again Sunday afternoon in Detroit.