The Boston Celtics will look to run their winning streak to three ahead of one of their toughest tests of the season when they host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
The Celtics face the Pistons a night before traveling to Milwaukee to take on the NBA-best Bucks in the tail end of a back-to-back. Boston has cruised in its past two contests, wins over weaker clubs in the New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls.
The Pistons also fit that mold, losing 12 of their past 15 games and still without several key starters due to injury. Detroit and Boston faced off earlier this year, the Celtics running away with a 114-93 win on Dec. 20.
Boston has won six of the past seven meetings between the clubs.
The Celtics have taken advantage of a softer part of their schedule to put a season-long three-game losing streak behind them. Jayson Tatum has led the way of late, following a career-best 41 points against the Pelicans with a team-high 21 in Monday’s 113-101 victory over the Bulls.
“I think we’ve got a really good team, and any given night we’ve got guys that can go for a large amount of numbers,” said teammate Jaylen Brown, who scored 19 in the contest. “So, for us, continue to play the right way and let the game kind of tell you what to do, and I think we’ll be all right.”
Tatum is probable for Wednesday’s game with right knee soreness, while big man Daniel Theis (right knee) is questionable after missing Monday’s win.
Also excelling of late for Boston is guard Marcus Smart, who returned from a lengthy absence with an eye infection in late December. Smart had 12 points and eight assists and played a team-high 33 minutes against Chicago while finishing plus-25.
“He’s been a great boost for us, and I think he’s starting to find himself after being out so long in these last three, four games,” coach Brad Stevens said.
Long-term injuries are a familiar problem for the Pistons, who are without Blake Griffin (knee), Luke Kennard (knee) and Reggie Jackson (back). Griffin and Kennard are nowhere close to a return, while Jackson appears days away from getting back on the court for the first time since late October.
“He’s moving like he’s 100 percent right now,” coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. “He should be ready to roll at any time.”
In the meantime, Derrick Rose has stepped up, leading the team in scoring in five of its past six games. Rose had 23 in a season-high 37 minutes of play as Detroit fell 117-110 in overtime to New Orleans on Monday.
From the fourth quarter on, Casey benched Andre Drummond, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes.
“In a situation like that, we’re looking for five or six men who are playing hard and who can finish the game for us,” Casey said. “It wasn’t a message for Andre as much as a message for everyone who wasn’t on the floor.”
–Field Level Media