Detroit Pistons (26-49) at Boston Celtics (52-23)
Sunday, April 3
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #76 – Home Game #38
TV: CSNNE, FSD, NBA-LP 751/752
Radio: WEEI, WWJ
Referees: Greg Willard, Pat Fraher, Derek Richardson This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams. The Celtics lead the series 2-1 with the loss coming in Detroit in December. Both teams have been struggling with the Celtics losers of 4 of their last 6 games and the Pistons losers of 7 of their last 10 games. The Pistons have lost 9 in a row on the road and the Celtics would like to make that streak continue. The Celtics have lost their last 2 at home and they definitely would like to reverse that trend.
The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Hawks at the end of their 4 game road trip. The Pistons are coming off a surprisingly close 96-101 loss to the Bulls. The loss to the Hawks dropped the Celtics in to the 3rd spot in the East, 3.5 games behind Chicago for the top seed and half a game behind Miami for the second seed. The Pistons are out of the playoffs and are playing for ping pong balls but have still been playing hard as evidenced by their effort against the Bulls.
The Celtics shouldn't take this team for granted because they can be dangerous if you leave the door open for them. They commit the fewest turnovers in the league with 12.8 a game. However, they have turned the ball over 20 + times in their last 3 games. Their bench is also 4th in the league in bench points at 39.1 points per game which isn't a surprise with Stuckey, Gordon, Villanueva and Maxiell coming off the bench. The Celtics will need to get production from their bench on both ends of the court.
The Celtics are still short handed up front as Krstic is expected to miss several games with the bone bruise to his knee. Jermaine O'Neal is back but is limited as he gets his rhythm and conditioning back. There have been rumors of Shaq possibly returning in this game but I'll believe it when I see it. There haven't been any reports on Murphy recently. Maybe with the way he has played, they are trying to forget about him.
The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and lost their last game. The Pistons are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have lost 2 in a row. But, as well as the Bulls have been playing, the Pistons stayed right with them in their last loss. The Celtics are 29-8 at home while the Pistons are 7-30 on the road and have lost 9 in a row away from home. If the Celtics come out focused and play team ball, they should be able to get an win. But if they underestimate this team and lose their focus, the Pistons could pull it out.
Probable Starters PGSGSFPFC
Rajon Rondo.... Ray Allen.... Paul Pierce.....Kevin Garnett.... Glen Davis
Troy Murphy (ankle) questionable
Nenad Krstic (knee) day to day
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) possible
PG SG SF PF C
Will Bynum..Rip Hamilton..Tayshaun Prince..Chris Wilcox..Greg Monroe
Ben Wallace (knee) questionable
Tracy McGracy (legs) questionable
Jonas Jerebko (Achilles) out
Terrico White (foot) out
Rajon Rondo vs Will Bynum
The Pistons have been starting Bynum and bringing Stuckey off the bench. This matchup is key mostly for what Rondo means to the Celtics. When Rondo is on, the Celtics play well. When Rondo is off, so are the Celtics. Hopefully Rondo's return to all star level play continues in this game.
Paul Pierce vs Tayshaun Prince
Pierce and Prince have been battling for many years. Over the years their teams have taken different paths with the Celtics going from the bottom of the league to being a contender and the Pistons going from being champs to now falling to the bottom of the league. Regardless of their team's position, this is always a fun matchup to watch. Pierce has averaged 25.3 ppg over the 3 games vs the Pistons.
Ray Allen vs Rip Hamilton
Both Ray and Rip spend most of the game running off of screens and it's always fun watching these two chase each other all over the court. Hamilton missed the first 3 games as he had been benched by the coach for much of the season. The Celtics haven't been as good at setting screens to get Ray open in recent games as with Baby playing center he'd rather shoot the ball than set a pick. I think the Celtics miss Perk's screens more than anything and it has affected Ray's game more than anyone else. The Celtics need to get back to ball movement and getting more shots for Ray.
Keys to the Game Defense - The Celtics must continue to make defense their number one priority. The Celtics play defense in spurts and it hasn't worked out well for them. In every game recently they have allowed an open lane to the basket for at least part of the game. They have to get their defensive intensity back and shutdown the highway to the basket. The Pistons are very capable of scoring and have shot better than 50% over their last 3 games so the Celtics need to tighten up their defense to hold them under 50% in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics make games harder for themselves by allowing their opponents to beat them on the boards. Rebounding takes effort and desire and when the Celtics put out both on the boards, it translates to all the other areas of their game also. They need to be aggressive in going after rebounds.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team. They have to take the ball to the basket and not settle for outside shots. They also must be aggressive in going for loose balls and hustle plays. The more aggressive team also usually gets the benefit of the calls.
Ball Movement - In recent games, the Celtics ball movement has been non existent in portions of the game, especially down the stretch when they go long stretches without scoring. When the ball movement stops, Ray doesn't get shots and that definitely hurts the team offense. The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man. If Baby shoots every time he gets the ball, Doc needs to sit him until he understands the concept of ball movement and team ball.
Willard has officiated over 1,100+ regular season games and 75+ play-off games. Willard also officiated the 1992 Japanese Opening Games in Yokohama. Before working for the NBA he accumulated 4 years of CBA officiating experience, 7 years in college level and 22 years in high school level in California. He called a technical on Yao Ming in a game in 2007 for saying "ahhhh" after a dunk. He is known for being wildly inconsistent in calling charges/blocks. Willard was also on duty in what Bill Simmons called the most atrociously officiated game of the 2007 playoffs. Of course, much of that could have been Donaghy who was betting on the game and Rush who is completely incompetent. Here is Simmons' description of that "atrociously" called game:
Congratulations to Greg Willard, Tim Donaghy and Eddie F. Rush for giving us the most atrociously officiated game of the playoffs so far: Game 3 of the Suns-Spurs series. Bennett Salvatore, Tom Washington and Violet Palmer must have been outraged that they weren't involved in this mess. Good golly. Most of the calls favored the Spurs, but I don't even think the refs were biased -- they were so incompetent that there was no rhyme or reason to anything that was happening.
Willard has only officiated one game for the Celtics this season and that was a home win against Atlanta where the Celtics shot 11 free throws to 24 for Atlanta. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Willard. The Pistons are 0-3 this season and 1-9 in their last 10 games with Willard on the court. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record of 41-17.
Fraher's NBA career started 6 years ago and so far he has officiated 284 regular season games. Before the NBA he officiated during 7 years in the CBA and four in the WNBA. Before that he worked 10 years as a high school official in Minnesota. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 with Fraher. In the 2 games this season the Celtics shot 55 free throws and their opponents shot 55 free throws over both games. The Pistons are 0-3 this season and 1-9 over their last 10 games officiated by Fraher. His home W/L record is 39-24.
Richardson has 10 years experience in the NBA. He has not officiated any playoff or finals games, but he has officiated the 2003 NBA Rookie game in Atlanta. He has 4 years collegiate officiating experience and he played basketball in college and high school. Richardson is another ref that is known for being inconsistent with his calls, especially on charge/block calls. Here is a video of Richardson taking out LeBron in a game when he was still in Cleveland. It's around the 10 second mark in the background behind Mo Williams.
After the collision, Richardson popped back up but here is LeBaby in the aftermath of the collision.
Richardson has only officiated 2 Celtics game this season, a win over Portland in which the Celtics shot 26 free throws to 23 for the Blazers and a win over the Heat where they shot 41 free throws to 25 for the Celtics. The Celtics are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Richardson. The Pistons are 1-2 this season and 1-9 over their last 10 games with Richardson as a ref. His home W/L record is 29-24.
Home Court and Focus
The Celtics are back at home after a 4 game road trip with mixed results. They need to feed off of the home crowd to get a win in this one. The Celtics level of focus will also be a factor. Will they come into this game focused on getting the win, or will they once again play like they have forgotten how to play as a team?