Pistons lose to Celtics 104-98 on Rip Hamilton Night

Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) defends during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) defends during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics (38-21) played spoiler at the Palace of Auburn Hills tonight, beating the Detroit Pistons 104-98 (28-31) on Rip Hamilton Night.

The Detroit Pistons had their hands full defensively, struggling at times to guard Boston Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas. The 5’9 point guard scored 33 points on 10-23 shooting in 34 minutes. Head coach Stan Van Gundy attempted to counter Thomas’s scoring ability by matching him up with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope when he was on the floor. That led to forward Stanley Johnson being on the floor for 11 minutes, the least he has played in one game since Jan. 23’s 100-94 loss to the Sacramento Kings (three minutes).

The Pistons also struggled during some stretches of the game in general, trailing Boston by as many as 15 points during the third quarter. Detroit though was able to keep within reach in part because of 10 forced turnovers in that frame alone. Boston finished with 16 total turnovers:

Detroit also had ball-handling issues tonight, recording 17 turnovers. The difference was they were able to covert Boston’s mistakes into 19 points (for comparison, the Celtics had 12 points off turnovers).

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By the final stretch, Van Gundy’s defensive rotation decision started to pay off. Thomas went 1-7 in the fourth quarter while being guarded by the 23-year-old. Caldwell-Pope also had nine points in the frame, three of which came from the free throw line after drawing a shooting foul beyond the arc on Thomas.

It was the Celtics’ ability to score inside and create second-chance shots though that helped put them on the top. With about 38 seconds left, rookie Jaylen Brown hit a major three-point shot while being fouled by Marcus Morris. After Brown missed the following free throw, Marcus Smart was able to grab the offensive rebound and draw an additional foul to give his team a five-point swing.

That – along with a missed wide open three-point attempt by Marcus Morris coming out of a timeout moments later – helped seal the deal for the Celtics, snapping their two-game losing streak.

Related Story: A deeper look at the Pistons point guard conundrum

It was the league-leading 30th time the Celtics had a one-possession game with less than three minutes to go, according to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. With the win, Boston moves to 19-11 in those situations.

Meanwhile, the Pistons had their two-game winning streak snapped.

D+. Although <a rel=. PG. Detroit Pistons. REGGIE JACKSON

A-. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s fourth-quarter performance was one of the main reasons the Pistons had a chance to win the game late. He recorded a team-high 18 points – half of which came in the fourth quarter – along with three rebounds and three assists. He was also able to help shut down Isaiah Thomas on the defensive end. While he also had a team-worst -17 plus-minus rating due to Thomas’s play in the first three quarters, the Pistons would not have had a chance to win this game without Caldwell-Pope.. SG. Detroit Pistons. KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE

Detroit Pistons. MARCUS MORRIS. C. Marcus Morris did not look too good tonight. He finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and a team-high five turnovers. Those five turnovers did not help the Pistons much on offense. He also had a big chance to keep Detroit’s hopes alive with a wide open three-point shot off an inbound, but could not get it done. The Pistons took about five seconds to foul the Celtics after the miss, which sealed the game. He shot five-of-15 overall.. SF

Detroit Pistons. TOBIAS HARRIS. C+. <a rel=. PF

Detroit Pistons. ANDRE DRUMMOND. C+. This brings us to where I would like to bring up the other reason the Pistons lost to the Celtics – their struggles at the free throw line. Detroit shot an ugly 16-35 from the line tonight. Of those misses, 10 of them came from <a rel=. C

C+. Stanley Johnson recorded seven points, two rebounds and two blocks in 11 minutes of playing time. He also had a team-high +12 plus-minus rating. While he was not much of an impact against the Celtics, he took advantage of his opportunities.. SF. Detroit Pistons. STANLEY JOHNSON

C-. <a rel=. PG. Detroit Pistons. ISH SMITH

C-. <a rel=. PF. Detroit Pistons. JON LEUER

B+. Stan Van Gundy had the almost perfect team strategy for their final match-up against the Celtics. While the Pistons trailed for a majority of the game, Van Gundy’s defensive adjustments helped keep the team within reach of the lead. Unfortunately, the free throw issues and Boston’s second-chance opportunities led to Detroit’s downfall tonight.. Head Coach. Detroit Pistons. STAN VAN GUNDY