The Pistons went into the All-Star break on the back of a 104-98 victory over the Hawks. Blake Griffin was an assist away from a triple-double in the win, while Ish Smith had 22 points and nine assists. Despite the win, Detroit remain just behind Miami in the fight for the final playoff position in the East. Their record of 28-29 has them in ninth place, 1.5 games behind the Heat.
The Celtics have conceded top spot in the same conference to the Raptors, but their 40-19 record still has them comfortably in second place. They lost three games in a row prior to the break, the most recent of which was a 119-129 loss to the Clippers. Kyrie Irving had 33 points and eight assists, but it was their normally reliable defense which let them down as they conceded 32 points or more in all but one quarter.
Three keys to the game
The Griffin effect - Since Griffin arrived in the Motor City in a blockbuster trade, the Pistons have gone 5-3. The most notable impact has been on offense, where their offensive rating has gone from 104.6 up to 107.2. He has averaged 20.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists in his eight games in Detroit.
Boston’s defense - The Celtics’ dominant start to the season was built largely on the back of a league-best defense, but in recent weeks their performance at that end of the floor has waned significantly. Their defensive rating for the season is still the best in the league at 100.9, but in the past 15 games it is 104.3, in the last ten games it is 106.1, and in the past five it is a huge 111.4, 22nd in the league in this time.
Motor City Pistons - Detroit have had a roller-coaster season, but their performances at home have been generally impressive. They are 19-12 on their home floor, in contrast to a comparatively woeful 9-17, and have won six of their past eight games at Little Caesars Arena.
Matchup to watch
Al Horford vs Blake Griffin - Two dual All-Stars will match up at the power forward position in this game, and both have the potential to be the most influential player on the floor. Griffin has barely missed a beat in his move to Detroit, putting up similar numbers to what he was contributing at the Clippers for the first part of the year, and he has proved to be a valuable influence on the Pistons lineup. Horford’s stats are less impressive - though much of his value is unquantifiable - but his season averages of 13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 43.6% shooting from beyond the arc are nothing to sneeze at.
Detroit Pistons predicted starting lineup
PG - Ish Smith | SG - Reggie Bullock | SF - Stanley Johnson | PF - Blake Griffin | C - Andre Drummond
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG - Kyrie Irving | SG - Jaylen Brown | SF - Jayson Tatum | PF - Al Horford | C - Aron Brynes
The first time these sides met this season, Drummond was instrumental in Detroit’s victory. He went 10-12 from the floor on the way to 26 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. In the second matchup between the teams he was far less influential on offense, but still made his presence felt with 15 rebounds. His career figures against the Celtics suggest dominant performances against them are the norm. In 20 career games, he averages 17.3 points on 60.4% shooting, 15.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and a block.
The Celtics have been made very slight favorites in this game. They have been given just a one-point handicap, and though it should be close, back Detroit to cover this line. Boston’s defense is looking a shadow of its former self, and their offense will suffer from the extended minutes they’ll need to give Baynes to look after Drummond.
This will be a closely fought game, but expect Detroit to sneak over the line on their home floor. Boston’s defense is not what it was earlier in the season, and though the Pistons are far from the most potent offensive unit in the league, they are looking solid at that end of the floor since the acquisition of Griffin.
Baynes will need to play extended minutes as Drummond will simply dominate when Horford is playing at the five. With the Australian playing at center, the Celtics lose out on offense and versatility, but with such a dominant big man on the opposition lineup it will be necessary in this game.
The game will be in the balance until the final few minutes, but Detroit will run out winners with a 101-99 victory.
The game will be broadcast locally on FS Detroit and NBCSB. Tip-off is at 7pm.