Celtics may be shorthanded in battle with Pistons
Al Horford and Jae Crowder are close to returning for the Boston Celtics. Whether those two starters get back in action on Saturday remains a major question mark.
Both remained sidelined on Friday, when the Celtics were defeated at home by Golden State, 104-88. Horford missed his ninth consecutive game with a concussion, while Crowder sat out for the eighth straight contest with a sprained left ankle.
The Celtics complete a back-to-back at the Detroit Pistons' home venue, The Palace of Auburn Hills
Coach Brad Stevens said Horford and Crowder, who comprise two-thirds of Boston's frontcourt, will accompany the team on its three-game road trip. They'll also make stops in Minnesota (Monday) and Brooklyn (Wednesday).
“Al had by far his best day (Thursday),” Stevens said. “He did some three-on-three, some one-on-one, went up and down, and felt pretty good. Hopefully, barring no setbacks, we're closer than further with him.”
Boston has another injury concern as guard Marcus Smart left Friday's game with a left ankle bruise. The Celtics (6-6) shot 37.3 percent from the field in the loss.
“We've got 70 games left,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “We haven't played a game yet without (at least) two of our top eight rotation guys (out).”
Golden State outscored Boston 31-9 in the third quarter.
“They're really good, and we all know that, but you just can't have droughts against them,” Stevens said.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas expressed irritation that he only played 28 minutes, scoring a team-high 18 points.
“We went into panic mode,” he told the Boston Globe. “We gave up.”
The Pistons (6-7) are the only unbeaten team at home this season at 5-0. They've won by double digits each time while holding every opponent under 90 points.
They've been a completely different club on the road with a 1-7 mark. They were blown out 104-81 by the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
Detroit was held to 31.2 percent shooting by the Cavaliers and none of its starters reached double figures.
“We got crushed,” coach Stan Van Gundy said with disgust. “They played harder than us, they played better than us, they moved the ball better, they played better together, they defended better, they did everything better.”
Van Gundy indicated he would consider changing the starting lineup. The Pistons were down 30-19 after the first quarter.
“We didn't get enough good looks and they challenged everything around the rim,” he said. “I give them all the credit. They played a lot harder than we did. We were just awful.”
One silver lining for the Pistons — they play their next four games at home after being on the road six of the last seven games. Their only home game during the past two weeks was a 104-88 victory over Oklahoma City on Monday.
Boston and Detroit were evenly matched last season, splitting their four-game season series. Every game was decided by seven points or less. Thomas averaged 23.5 points and 8.3 assists in those games.