Trailing by as much as 21 points in the second quarter, the Boston Celtics came roaring back to take a fourth quarter lead over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. However, from there on out, the shotmaking that got them back into the game went cold, as the C’s missed their final 11 shots and didn’t score a single point in the last four minutes. With the loss, the Celtics fall to 3-3 on the young season, while the Pistons pick up their first win of the year. Jerami Grant scored 24 for the Pistons to lead them to victory, while Tatum paced the Celtics with 28.
This game only makes clearer the questions about the Celtics offense and why it disappears for entire quarters at a time. Unlike past games where it was the third quarter that doomed the Celtics, this time it was the start of the game. They came out totally unprepared to play, and the Pistons jumped them, taking a 27-12 lead at the end of one. While the C’s have had a terrible quarter in a lot of their games so far, this one was especially shocking considering the opponent. The Pistons came into this game winless, giving up more than 120 points per game. However, through a combination of good defense and a lot of missed open shots, they were dominating the Celtics early.
While the C’s started to play better in the second quarter, they still went into halftime trailing by 15. It was the first time they have trailed at halftime in a game this season, in a game nobody expected them to be losing.
In the third quarter, they turned up the heat, as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finally got going, with Tatum dropping 14 in the frame and Brown adding another 10. Their 24 combined points matched the Pistons total for the quarter, and the C’s went into the fourth trailing by only 6 points.
Jaylen Brown started the fourth quarter on a personal 7-0 run, and the C’s took their first lead of the game at 80-79. The lead went back and forth until Jayson Tatum hit a three-pointer with 4:15 on the clock to give the C’s a five-point lead. Those would be the last points the Celtics scored, while the Pistons put 8 points on the board to steal the win.
While the C’s had no business winning this game after the way they played in the first quarter, to end up losing after taking the lead stings. And once again, this game proved that the C’s have to figure out their offense. On a team with this much talent, there is no excuse for scoring 12 points in a quarter. It put them in a hole for the rest of the game, and by the time the fourth quarter came, they looked truly gassed, as many of their final shots were coming up well short.
Going forward, the Celtics are going to need contributions for players other than Tatum and Brown. In this game, they were the only Celtics players to score more than 15 points, scoring 28 and 25 respectively. Only two other players managed to reach double digits in a disappointing offensive showing. This is going to be the Celtics’ reality until Kemba Walker returns, however. They’re missing one of the league’s premier point guards, and nobody on the roster has proved that they can come close to the 20 points he provides nightly.
One final note about this game, and the season as a whole so far, is the officiating. What on earth is this call?
That play happens ten times a game and is never an offensive foul. Players like James Harden, Trae Young, Kyle Lowry and so many others absolutely abuse that move to get free points at the free-throw line when they are in the bonus. Brad Stevens even challenged the play, and it was upheld by the review center. It gets to a deeper issue that the Celtics really struggle to get the easiest shot in the game – free throws. Jayson Tatum, for example, averages more than 13 drives to the basket per game. However, he apparently never gets fouled on them, or any shots he takes, because he only averages 1.3 free-throw attempts. That is a ridiculously low number. As a team, the Celtics only attempt 19.8 free throws per game, the fifth lowest in the league. Compared to some other teams that are averaging almost 30, those are free points that the Celtics just are not getting the chance to score. Maybe the Celtics don’t deserve more attempts at the line, but it gets exhausting being at a disadvantage in that stat every game.
Next up for the Celtics is a rematch against the Pistons on Sunday. That game will be at 3 p.m., with the Celtics looking for revenge.