To say these are two franchises going in different directions is an understatement. The Detroit Pistons were losers of eight in a row and 11 of 12. The Boston Celtics were winners of nine in a row and 11 of 12. Over those dozen games the point differential between the two teams was a stark plus-300 in Boston’s favor.
That is, as they say, why you play the games.
Because sometimes a struggling team starts hitting shots, gets stops when it matters and shocks the hottest team in the NBA 112-111 in storied TD Garden.
How’d the Pistons manage the shocking upset? It was a team effort. Jerami Grant played largely off the ball and had his most efficient performance in ages. He knocked in 24 points on just 13 shots. He also hit the game-winning shot with a tough, off-balance 10-footer with three defenders on him with just 19.6 seconds remaining.
Saddiq Bey scored 20 points, hit 5-of-8 from deep and secured 11 rebounds. Cade Cunningham scored 20 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and really set the tone for the second-half comeback. Isaiah Stewart set a good tone early and scored 12 points going to work in the post against Boston’s undersized big men thanks to the absence of Robert Williams.
On the bench, Kelly Olynyk had his first solid outing since returning from his bout with COVID. He had life in his legs, his shot looked pure and he was able to move on defense. He scored 15 points and had six rebounds. Finally, Marvin Bagley had another decent outing in his second game as a member of the Pistons. He had some miscues, to be sure, but he also continued to play big, athletic and bouncy.
Cunningham finally has a big man who can finish off a pass like this.
The Pistons were able to go toe-to-toe with the Celtics and even built up a six-point cushion after an Olynyk 3 with 9:44 remaining. Then the Celtics started looking like the best team in basketball.
On offense, they were able to get anything they wanted, and on defense they were able to coax the Pistons into a series of miscues and poor decisions. Grant Williams routinely found himself wide open from 3 and Jaylen Brown was able to get to his spots on the floor or find open lanes to the rim.
A Tatum 3-pointer capped a 13-0 run and saw the Celtics up 99-92. Cunningham stopped the bleeding with a patient drive to the rim but Boston was once again able to push the lead up to eight with some solid play from the ageless Al Horford and Tatum.
Saddiq Bey hit a step-back 3 with the shot clock expiring when the Pistons needed it most and gave the Pistons one more chance with just over 2 minutes remaining.
The teams went back and forth but Jaylen Brown was able to drive to the rim and kick it out to a wide open Al Horford in the corner after Stewart got sucked into the paint to provide help defense. Horford sank the easy look and Boston was up 111-110 with just 33.3 remaining.
The Pistons then put the game in the hands of the veteran Grant, and he was able to deliver that game-winning shot. But not without a little drama.
After the pair of Stewart and Cunningham were able to team up to swat away a Jayson Tatum drive down the lane, the Pistons had the ball and Boston would be forced to foul. But Cory Joseph delivered a careless pass into Cade Cunningham and the Celtics were able to get the steal.
Tatum shot a 20-footer with.a chance to win the game but it came up just short.
The Pistons go into the All-Star break with a win, some confidence for several of the players and a chance to get everyone healthy during the extended break.