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The Boston Celtics traveled to Detroit to face the Pistons Wednesday night, coming off of a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. In general, the Celtics have seemed mired in a mid-season quagmire as they face injuries and what is only now becoming an easier schedule.
The Celtics played well in the first half, forcing turnovers and making shots, but the Pistons switched to a zone defense in the second half. The Celtics could not come up with a way to penetrate the new defense and, combined with no help from their bench whatsoever, became so frustrated that they lost all control of the game. Hot hands for Pistons turned the score the other way, and Boston lost, 92-86.
There were certainly some bright spots in Wednesday’s loss. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each scored 21 points. Rondo also chipped in seven assists and eight rebounds, getting close to the triple-double he always seems to flirt with. However, Pierce’s and Rondo’s performances were just silver linings to a very dark storm cloud of Celtics offense.
The offense played well in the first half, forcing turnovers and scoring on fast-breaks with relative ease. But they could do nothing against the new defense the Pistons put in place in the second half. Worse than that, they let the defense get in their heads. They shot poorly, they passed poorly (a rarity with this Celtics team, win OR lose), and they played without any energy. From the first half it seemed like the Celtics could run over the Pistons at will. Against this new defense, they slowed down and started jamming passes to doubly-covered teammates. It led to Boston turnovers that Detroit turned into easy fast-break points.
The biggest problem with the Celtics defensively Wednesday night was rebounding. The Celtics gave up 13 offensive rebounds on their way to getting out-rebounded 45-35. Giving teams with scorers second-chance shots like that is a surefire way to blow leads and lose games. And when they DID rebound, too many Celtics turned and sprinted up-court without making sure the rebound had been secured. Several Celtics rebounds ended when a Piston would just steal the ball from the rebounder and score again.
The Celtics defense played with the same lack of energy that they offense did, and in the second half it cost them. The Pistons were able to run circles (quite literally, sometimes) around Celtics defenders. They penetrated when they wanted to, kicked it out to the corners when they wanted to (only four three-pointers, but they were all big ones, including one to ice the game with 55 seconds left on the clock), and played with far more heart, energy and rhythm than the Celtics did.
The Celtics deserved to lose this game Wednesday night. They played an awful second half that lacked any passion or force. It raises the question of whether or not the Celtics care that they are underachieving as badly as they are. Injuries and instability on the front line can be blamed for SOME of this malaise, but this is a Celtics team filled with veterans and leaders. Someone has to step up and get this team going in the right direction again.
The Atlantic Division is weak enough that they should make the playoffs with relative ease. But, for the Celtics to DO anything once the playoffs start, they will need to find their passion once again. The Celtics, like the ad says, are definitely “reloaded.” The question is: are they “rejuvenated” enough to win?