Boston coming to town

Essentials

  • Teams: Boston Celtics (6-4) at Detroit Pistons (1-9)
  • Date: November 18, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After losing at home Friday night to the Orlando Magic, the Detroit Pistons will try to shake off the defeat and add a second victory to their win column when they take on a Boston Celtics team tonight that is sure to be somewhat fatigued after playing against the Toronto Raptors at home yesterday.

The tricky thing about back-to-backs in the NBA is that they can often result in scheduling losses because they force head coaches to go deep into their benches to buy some time for the starters to rest during the course of the games in order to have some gas left in the tank to perform to their usual standards late in the fourth quarter.

Doc Rivers on the other hand seems to have an entirely different philosophy this season with respect to the rest he’s afforded to his big guns.

On the back end of back-to-backs, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are actually playing more minutes than what they typically average during the season. This could be attributed to the fact that Rivers is still trying to figure out his rotation (which he is), but also given that it’s a little early in the season he can get away with it for now.

The Celtics have won two out of their three games when playing on consecutive nights, and their opponents have been at Washington (win), at Milwaukee (win) and at Brooklyn (loss). Thus, the Pistons should probably expect to see Boston regulars tonight, although with a slight twist.

The departure of Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics was seen as a betrayal, but also was going to benefit them a little — according to Ainge and Rivers — because they now had younger guys playing shooting guard that didn’t need to always have plays called for them. That made sense in theory, but when looking at the Celtics’ offense this year, it looks a little different. The emphasis for ball movement is still there, and Rondo does an exceptional job of directing traffic and finding players, but there is less misdirection involved; and the offense looks a little more simplistic.

Consequently, there are times where it looks quite plain and less sophisticated in comparison to last season, and thus one would be tempted to say it’s worse, but it’s actually the contrary. Their offensive efficiency has improved and so has their field goal percentage. The adjustment has been a slight one, but one that should be obvious: Rondo utilizing the ball just a bit less, while Garnett and Pierce are using it a bit more.

The end result is that they are getting more opportunities to create offense either for themselves or for teammates; whether it be in the pick-and-roll, on the low block or simply in quick isolation plays.

On defense, the Celtics are nowhere near their level of effectiveness from seasons past, which could be attributed to the fact that Rivers is still mixing and matching his rotation. But there is another factor at play here: Garnett isn’t the same guy.

By the time the postseason rolls around and there is more rest time, perhaps then KG will look like a defensive beast, but asking him to do so for 82 regular season games has now become a thing of the past.

The Celtics like to be aggressive on defense and get into the face of players with the ball, and once the ball goes to the wing, they tilt their entire defense towards the ball-handler to clog all driving lanes. When properly executed, it looks like a zone defense.

There are three ways to beat this: the first one involves having either Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony on your team, because they can take one dribble and elevate over the defender for a jump shot, the second one requires a movement creating action like a hard dribble towards the defense or pick-and-roll and then passing the ball to force the defense to rotate until it reaches the open man camped out on the weak side or the last one, a pinpoint cross-court pass from the strong side to the weak side that flusters the defense.

The Pistons do not have great wing passers, nor do they have Melo or Kobe, so their best bet is to go towards the defense and then share the ball on the perimeter for an open shot or even better, go right at Kevin Garnett. Indeed, the Big Ticket now has trouble closing out and recovering on mobile stretch big men; thus he can be attacked off the dribble — paging Dr. Monroe — to get inside the paint where Boston lacks shot blockers and allows opponents to convert 67.8 percent of their shots at the rim (26th in the NBA).

The Pistons will have their hands full tonight, but it’s important that they try and take advantage of a team that has not yet set its rotation and that is also vulnerable early on in the season defensively as well as on their backboards.

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