The Celtics fell to the Pistons in a thriller that saw Isaiah Thomas (38 pts, 7 ast, 3 reb) match his career high of 38 points in Detroit. After a strong first quarter, the C's struggled to keep up with the Pistons who were led by Kantavious Caldwell-Pope (31 pts, 3 ast, 2 reb), and Reggie Jackson (23 pts, 3 ast, 2 reb).
Boston was able to lock down star center Andre Drummond (16 pts, 12 reb) for the first half before he hit a halfcourt three as time expired in the first half which ultimately decided the game. Drummond continued to have a strong stat-line, finishing with 11 points and nearly ten rebounds in the second half. The buzzer three by Drummond brought the Pistons out swinging in the third quarter and they jumped to a 10 point lead about halfway into the third. The Celtics answered back thanks to one of Tyler Zeller's (12 pts, 3 reb) best performances of the season and the plan to start intentionally fouling Drummond (Hack-a-Dre? Hack-a-Drummond? Whichever you prefer.)
The Celtics were able to surge comebacks multiple times, but could never pull ahead of the relentless Pistons squad. Caldwell-Pope came through in the clutch multiple times, and Jackson had two big plays near the end of regulation; one a called shooting foul on a three point attempt in which Jackson hit all the free throws, and an and-one on the next possession. These possessions helped stave off the C's, especially when Jonas Jerebko (9 pts, 3 reb) got hot from behind the arc, answering each of Jackson's three-point-possessions with a three of his own. Jerebko hit 3 threes in total.
This loss ends Boston's incredible streak of 10 wins on the second night of road back-to-backs. The C's will face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday in Boston.
Here is a quarter by quarter breakdown of the game:
The Celtics opened up a first quarter lead over the Pistons in Detroit and a large part of the offense was supplied by Amir Johnson:
Here's the putback that King mentions:Great offensive first quarter from Amir Johnson so far. Three from the corner, putback dunk, hook over Drummond.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 17, 2015
Johnson had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal and was unstoppable according to Jay King:
And another jump hook. Amir Johnson cannot be stopped.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 17, 2015
Celtics finished the first quarter up 25-18, and scorched the Pistons from three-point land scoring 12 of their 25 points from behind the arc.
Trailing by 7 at the start of the second, the Pistons surged a comeback. Outscoring the C's 37-27 in the second period, Detroit took a 55-52 lead into the locker room at the half.
Bad offense from Boston was the story as the bench corps struggled to find the bottom of the net. Settling for post-ups infuriated King:
Too. Many. Post-ups. (Even if Evan Turner made that turnaround.)— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 17, 2015
The Pistons also took momentum into their locker room as Andre Drummond (who was basically invisible on the stat sheet for the first half) drilled a buzzer beater half court shot to give Detroit a three point lead:
New plan: Drummond takes free throws from midcourt. https://t.co/AdEMh5RYiL— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 17, 2015
The Pistons jumped out of the gate in the second half, and a 10-2 run by Detroit gave Drummond and company a 10 point lead about half way through the third quarter:
Down by 10, Brad Stevens decided to crack out the Hack-a-Drummond strategy:#Celtics losing touch here, seems that Drummond halfcourt shot sparked #Pistons and they are playing w confidence. 71-61 at 6:42 mark of 3Q— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) December 17, 2015
It worked as Drummond went 3-of-6 from the charity stripe before being subbed out. The man subbed in to soak up the fouls, Tyler Zeller, was an instant impact on offense for the C's. Zeller snagged 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and secured some tough rebounds including an offensive putback to bring the C's within 3 with under a minute to go in the third quarter.Brad Stevens ready to dust off the team's big man policy aka Tyler Zeller for some Hack-a-Dre time. #Celticstalk— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) December 17, 2015
Celtics finished the quarter trailing by 2 points after a last second bucket by Thomas. 85-83.
Zeller tied the game up at 85 on the first possession of the fourth, but that was the only bucket the Celtics hit for the next 4 1/2 minutes. Meanwhile, the Pistons strung together a 14-0 run during that stretch to make it 99-85. 6 of those points were from Anthony Tolliver, who drilled two big threes that were largely uncontested:
The Celtics responded with a run of their own utilizing their good defense. A steal by Jae Crowder from Drummond led to a three by Jonas Jerebko making it a 4 point game with 4 1/2 to go in the game. 101-97 Detroit.#Celtics again forgot Anthony Tolliver can shoot from 3, inexcusable.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) December 17, 2015
That wasn't the last three from Jerebko either. He splashed home two more, keeping the Celtics in the game after Reggie Jackson hit three free throws after an alleged shooting foul, and an and-one basket with 2 1/2 to go.
The game came down to the wire though, as the Celtics were within 4 with 30 seconds to go. Evan Turner came out of the Celtics timeout and got an and-one call to make it a one point game. Isaiah Thomas then fouled Kantavious Caldwell-Pope on the inbound and the shooting guard hit two free throws to make it a three point game. Stevens called a timeout but Jerebko wasn't able to score. KCP hit two more free throws to make it a 5 point game and then to continue the drama, Isaiah canned a wing three to bring the Celtics within 2 but the C's couldn't complete the comeback.
One more free throw sealed it, and Boston fell to the Pistons 119-116.
Topher Lane is on Twitter, @Topher_L. Photo cred: B. Sevald/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images Topher Lane 12/16/2015 10:30:00 PM Tweet Edit