Marcus Smart was a guest commentator on the NBC Sports Boston broadcast Friday night, and it’s a wonder he didn’t smash through the plexiglass booth, the first half product on the floor below was so substandard.
The injured Smart joined his teammates for the second half, and the view wasn’t any better there. From Semi Ojeleye leaving for good in the third quarter with a sore right knee to another kind of physical and mental breakdown taking place on the floor, all he could do was shout from behind the bench.
Brad Stevens, who had hoped for some game-to-game continuity following Thursday’s inspired win over Toronto, was foiled yet again in that regard in his team’s 108-102 loss to Detroit.
A new Celtics tormentor announced himself last night. Rookie Saddiq Bey strafed the Celtics with a 30-point off-the-bench performance. His seven 3-pointers (against zero misses) set a Pistons rookie record.
Jayson Tatum had another near-triple double – this one for 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists – that had a particularly hollow ring.
Tatum’s last-ditch effort to pull out a win fell short. Fouled on a full-court inbounds pass with 6.6 seconds left, he hit twice to cut the Pistons lead to 105-102, giving the Celtics some late hope. Josh Jackson was fouled on the inbounds play with 5.1 seconds left, front-rimmed his first attempt and hit the second for a four-point edge. This time Tatum couldn’t chase down the full-court inbounds pass, leaving Wayne Ellington to put the game out of reach with two free throws.
After a rough third quarter, the Celtics trailed by 10 entering the final 12 minutes. Jaylen Brown’s drive with 3:30 left had cut the Detroit lead to 95-89, and eight seconds later Tatum hit twice from the line, chopping the Pistons lead to four points.
Blake Griffin missed a 3-pointer, the Celtics called timeout with 3:02 left, and following an empty possession by each side, Daniel Theis was fouled with 2:10 left. His two free throws made it 95-93.
Josh Jackson buried a trey, but Tatum answered from mid-range, cutting the Pistons edge to 98-95, and after empty possessions on both sides, Bey hit his seventh trey for a 101-95 lead with 38.2 seconds left.
Grant Williams missed the first of two free throws with 36 seconds left, leaving the Celtics down by five points. Delon Wright hit twice from the line with 25.1 seconds left for a 103-96 lead.
The Celtics had cut the Detroit lead to 82-72 with Jeff Teague’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, but had trouble tightening that deficit despite some shot-making from Tatum and Brown early in the fourth.
Daniel Theis’ put-back off a missed Brown free throw cut the Detroit lead to 87-82 with 7:35 left, and Tatum cut the margin to five again with a spinning dunk off the baseline. But Jerami Grant nullified that play with a pair of free throws.
Tatum’s 3-pointer with 6:07 left cut the Detroit lead to 93-87, Theis missed the next time down from the top of the circle, and Delon Wright immediately scored.
Trouble continued when Payton Pritchard (1-for-5) threw a pass out of bounds under pressure, though the Celtics pressured the Pistons into a shot clock violation on the other end.
The Pistons called timeout with 4:11 left and a 95-87 lead in hand.
Their languid nature considered, the Celtics probably felt fortunate about trailing, 54-52, at the half. A late second quarter surge by Tatum and Ojeleye did the trick, but everything considered they had a lot of rough ground to cover. Brown had 15 points by the break, with Tatum working on a triple double with 13 points, five assists and six rebounds. But the going was rocky.
The Celtics threw together a 7-0 run early in the third, tying the score twice in a five-minute span. They tied it again at 65-65 on Brown’s clock-beating 3-pointer, but it wasn’t enough. The Celtics slipped back, trailing by eight points when Saddiq Bey hit his fifth trey (against zero misses) of the night with 3:20 left in the third.
Bey’s sixth bomb was good for an 82-69 lead with 55 seconds left, with a Teague trey cutting the Pistons edge to 10 points at the end of the quarter.