Midway through the fourth quarter, Brandon Knight broke loose and found himself matched one-on-one with thin air. Somehow, the air won.
It was a fitting metaphor for the Pistons’ night, as they found improbably found themselves in position to win, only to see the game bounced haphazardly off the glass like Knight’s layup attempt. The Celtics rushed out to an 18-point lead midway through the third, but a big run late in the quarter put the Pistons right back into it. Just not close enough.
Jeff Green did most of the damage for the Celtics tonight. The athletic forward stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting, grabbing six boards and blocking four shots. He made a few key plays down the stretch to secure the lead for Boston, including a putback dunk and an open corner three. Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass added 17 points apiece for the Celtics.
The Pistons committed something of a crime on the Celtics in the paint, out-rebounding Boston 52-34 for the game (including a 25-4 advantage on the offensive glass). While rebounds are not exactly the Celtics’ specialty, the Pistons were able to impose their will on Celtics down low. Greg Monroe’s recent hot streak continued, as he scored 24 points (11-of-22 shooting) and pulled down 17 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey tacked on 22 points despite a 5-of-16 mark, bolstered by an 11-of-15 mark from the free throw line, and Jonas Jerebko scored 19 on 6-of-10 shooting.
Brandon Knight’s play is becoming something of a concern as of late, as the combo guard has looked simply atrocious in six games since his return from injury. A 2-of-10 mark tonight puts him at 14-of-48 for his last six, and that probably doesn’t even illustrate just how bad he’s been. He was pressed into starting point guard duty tonight with Calderon scratched (sore right arm), and the results were not pretty.
Charlie Villanueva’s game tonight was deserving of its own paragraph, though. The forward evidently took Jrue Holiday’s epic 2-for-24 game against the Bobcats as a challenge, as he finished the night 2-for-17 himself. He missed all eight of his threes. Yes, eight. I understand the Pistons are doing this whole “tanking” thing quite well, but I still question why he’s received no minutes when Villanueva has been playing like this as of late.
Ultimately, the Pistons were never likely to top the Celtics, even with KG ailing, and they probably didn’t even want to. I can’t help but think Lawrence Frank should be taking a better look at some of the younger players on this roster, however. There’s no reason Villanueva should have taken 17 shots tonight. After all, there are only six games remaining this season. Given Frank’s track record with young guys, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The Pistons travel to Minnesota this Saturday to face the Timberwolves to conclude this road trip, and as I just mentioned, there are only six games remaining in this season. It probably can’t end quickly enough.