Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will return from the all-star break to host the Boston Celtics at the LCA. This is the first game back from the break for both teams so they are well rested.
The Celtics are really good, even if they have been slipping a bit recently. They come into this game with the 21st offensive efficiency in the NBA, scoring 104.4 points per 100 possessions, but they butter their bread on the defensive end with the best efficiency in the NBA by allowing just 100.9 points per 100 possessions. They hold the 4th best net rating in the NBA at +3.5.
The Celtics run out all-star Al Horford at center and occasionally power forward and he is their best player. He is the anchor for their all-world defense and his passing, shooting, screen setting, and versatility are the things that keep the offense afloat no matter how many spectacular Kyrie Irving isolations you see. Horford leads the team in assists per game at 5.1. Horford also of course struggles on the glass and against bigger guys, especially against Andre Drummond. Despite previous statements, Kyrie is number two not because he is bad, but because Horford is really good. Irving is an electric scorer in isolation, shoots threes like crazy, and is one of the handful of guys who can single-handedly win a game by just getting buckets.
After their top two guys the Celtics are a collection of tough and good players. Jaylen Brown has made really good progress in year two, he's learned to shoot, he defends every position, and even has some secondary playmaking skills. Jayson Tatum is still stupidly good for a 19 year old, although he has started to drop off lately and does in fact still make the occasional rookie mistake. Marcus Smart does not really offense so good, but he is a bull-dog on defense and the sort of try hard guy that every coach loves. Marcus Morris is doing his thing, he plays tough defense, and can get tough buckets on offense.
Terry Rozier can shoot threes, Aron Baynes is a large human, Daniel Theis is also a large human, Semi Ojeleye is a young wing who probably isn't very good, Greg Monroe is here now too.
This is perhaps the best coached team in the NBA, they defend like crazy, and scrape out points on offense with heavy motion and Kyrie Irving isolations. There has been some weakness shown in the games leading up to the break, but even with that, this team is pretty stinking good.
Matchups to watch:
Celtics vs. Pistons size: Andre Drummond has been a huge throne in the side of the Celtics. Now there are two huge guys up front who dominate the paint. Monroe and Baynes will likely get heavier minutes than usual. Stevens will have some things ready, but this is going to be a challenge for the Celtics.
Pistons vs. Kyrie Irving: I don't really miss Avery Bradley. I didn't turn on him like a lot of people did, but his departure made room for my beloved son Reggie Bullock so I can't complain. Tonight I think we will all miss Avery Bradley. I have no idea what the Pistons can do to guard Irving in this game.
Pistons vs. Cohesion, rest, scheme: The Pistons were often a mess since the Griffin trade, which makes sense and is ok given the circumstances. It doesn't have to be perfect now, but after the break things should be improved. Lets see what sort of stuff the coaching staff has pulled out of the break. One thing worth mentioning, remember that they are going against the best defense in basketball. If the offense looks bad don't panic, the Celtics have made a lot of offenses look bad this year.
Stanley Johnson vs. Not slowing down: One reason that Stanley Johnson started to thrive is that he thrives in the chaos created by such a radical trade. Assuming the Pistons are better organized now, it is important that he stays aggressive and that the coaching staff finds places to let him do so.
Pistons vs. Hitting the ground running: The Pistons do not have an especially challenging schedule by record, but they do play a lot of games on the road. The margin for error is all but gone. Get a win right away to get started.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond has a double double in the first quarter.
Blake Griffin is thriving as he is more comfortable and knowledgeable in the offense.
The Pistons find some way to hold Kyrie Irving in place.
Run for the hills if:
Kyrie Irving starts scoring.
The Celtics defense totally smothers the Pistons offense.
Marcus Smart banks in a three.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Kyrie Irving is contained. I'm not sure how but just let me believe this.
Griffin has his best game in a Pistons uniform.
The Celtics offensive ineptitude from before the break continues, the Pistons win a ugly game through the brute force of Drummond and Griffin.
Pistons 98 – Celtics 85.
What do you think? Can the Pistons contain Irving? What sort of schematic changes will the Pistons make?