The Boston Celtics have had an up-and-down season, thus far, to say the least. Winning streaks and losing streaks are both scattered throughout their schedule, and a 103-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons Sunday has pushed them back to .500 nearly halfway through the year.
The first time these two teams met, Boston played one of their worst games of the 2012-13 campaign. They gave up 54.2 percent from the field, they couldn’t score in transition and they ended up falling to the Pistons by 20 points.
This time around, the game felt more competitive throughout, but the end result ended up being nearly the same for Doc Rivers and his crew.
The Pistons were the first ones to establish momentum. They jumped out to a quick 13-2 lead, and they were out-rebounding the team in green on both ends of the floor. The Celtics shot just 27.3 percent in the first quarter, and they found themselves down 27-18 heading into the second period.
The next 12 minutes began in similar fashion, as Boston gave up open looks all over the floor. The Pistons went on a quick 9-0 run, and at one point, the Celtics trailed by 18.
But around the nine-minute mark of the second quarter, the Celtics began swarming the Pistons defensively. While defense didn’t look like much of a priority early, it is what helped turn this game around—at least temporarily. Detroit turnovers led to offensive opportunities for Boston, and the gap had been closed to four by halftime.
Momentum would go back and forth throughout the second half, but it always seemed to fall back in Detroit’s favor. Boston hadn’t given up 100 points to any team in 2013, but excellent shooting from the Pistons broke that streak Sunday night.
Rajon Rondo wasn't able to follow up his recent 30-point performance with a great scoring output, but if there is anyone in the NBA who can impact a game in other ways, it's the Boston Celtics' point guard.
Rondo found himself in foul trouble early, but Doc Rivers elected to play him his regular minutes. The strategy proved to pay off, as it was Rondo's lockdown defensive and pass-first nature that created opportunities for his teammates.
The 26-year-old finished the game with an impressive 15 assists, nine rebounds and three steals, but you can't evaluate his performance without looking at the bad.
The Celtics don't need Rondo to score to have him take over, but going 4-of-16 from the field is only going to hurt. Five fouls and nine turnovers are also detrimental to the team's success, and you have to ask yourself if the good outweighed the bad in a 15-point loss.
Avery Bradley may have been in the starting lineup, but it was obvious early on that he was going to be overshadowed by fellow shooting guard Courtney Lee.
Bradley was never able to get involved in the offense in this one. All of his first-half minutes came during Detroit's run, and by the time Boston had made its comeback, it was Lee who had established himself as a go-to scorer.
There were a few plays in this one where Bradley was able to take advantage of Rajon Rondo's playmaking abilities but credit those plays to the point guard who made them happen.
Bradley finished the contest with six points on 3-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes.
The last time these two teams met, Paul Pierce was held to just 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He only completed one of his five three-point attempts, and he was never able to get things going against a tough Detroit defense.
Unfortunately for Boston, he wasn't able to do much better in Round 2.
Pierce missed three of his first four shots and managed to score just four points in the entire first half. He went on to record 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and he was unable to earn a single trip to the free-throw line.
That being said, he did manage to pull down seven first-half rebounds, and he remarkably became the Celtics' all-time leader in steals with the two he recorded. You can't take either of those things away from him, but in a big-time loss to a sub-.500 team, Boston needed scoring, and Pierce couldn't give it to them.
Brandon Bass was about as non-existent as it comes in Sunday night's matchup.
The big man played just four minutes in the entire first half, failing to record a single meaningful stat. He never had an impact on either side of the floor, and his backup bigs drastically outperformed him from start to finish.
Bass is averaging 26.5 minutes per game, but he only managed to see the floor for 10 minutes this time around.
If given more minutes, it's possible we would have seen a better outcome. But with Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger playing well, Bass was left to watch from the sidelines.
Like all of the Boston Celtics' starters, Kevin Garnett started slowly against the Detroit Pistons. But in what turned out to be a common theme, he was able to find easy-scoring opportunities when the defense finally got involved.
Garnett was the only player in the starting lineup who was a viable option in the first half. He finished the contest with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and he was extremely efficient from the line, as he knocked down six of his eight attempts.
The biggest problem with Garnett's performance is that he never established himself on the glass. Boston entered this game as the NBA's worst rebounding team, and the Celtics' center did little to combat that notion.
Garnett did record two blocks in this one, but that number is a bit deceiving, considering how many easy looks Detroit was able to get at the rim.
In a first quarter that saw stagnant offensive production all over the Boston roster, Jeff Green proved to be the only reason the team stayed within single digits.
The backup forward came into the game and began scoring at an efficient rate. Without his scoring, the nine-point Detroit lead would have been much higher, and the second-quarter comeback might not have been as effective.
Like most hot first-quarter starts, Green eventually cooled off. His free-throw shooting became his best asset during the second half, and he finished the game with 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
This team has a number of players who can step in and play the sixth man role, but it was Green who stepped up and played well when the team needed it early.
The only reason Boston was able to stay within nine in the first quarter was its bench. The starters finished the opening period with just four total points, while the bench scored the other 14.
The production early came mostly from Jeff Green, but the rest of the crew would come around as the game moved on. Courtney Lee became an integral part of the offense in the second period, as his two three-pointers proved to be timely in the Celtics' attempted comeback.
The 2-guard would go on to score 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
While Green was able to score off the bench, he didn't do much in the rebounding department. Jared Sullinger, however, managed to pull down seven rebounds to go along with his seven points.
The bench combined for 48 points in this one.