The Boston Celtics have done in the last three weeks what Stan Van Gundy hoped his Detroit Pistons would: make a move as most of the Eastern Conference treads water.
While the ailing Pistons are stuck in the current, the Celtics are looking to continue swimming downstream when they host Detroit on Wednesday night.
Boston (28-22) has dropped two of three in this series already this season, the latest a 99-94 home loss Jan. 6 that began a season-worst four-game skid. The Celtics, however, have followed with nine wins in 12 games to climb up the East standings and tie Southeast Division-leading Atlanta for the third-best record in the conference.
Tuesday's 97-89 victory at New York gave Boston six wins in seven games, and the Celtics (7-3) join Cleveland (8-2) and Toronto (9-1) as the only Eastern teams with winning records in their last 10.
The latest victory wasn't pretty as Boston's six-game streak of scoring at least 110 points ended with the help of a 3-for-19 effort from 3-point range, including misses on all 13 attempts in the first half. It was the Celtics' defense that delivered the difference - as has often been the case over the last two weeks.
Boston, which has won five straight at TD Garden, has held six of its last seven opponents below 43 percent shooting, and the Knicks finished at 37.8 while committing 17 turnovers that led to 16 points for the Celtics.
"Eventually we started wearing them down playing great defense, and we got stops and turned them into buckets," said Evan Turner, who came off the bench for 14 points, 10 rebounds and three of Boston's nine steals.
Fellow reserve Tyler Zeller added 16 points and 10 boards, while Isaiah Thomas finished with 20 points and eight assists. Thomas matched a career high with 38 points in a 119-116 loss at Detroit on Dec. 16, and he's averaged 27.8 and 8 assists in his last four games against the Pistons.
While Boston's defensive effort has keyed its latest run, Detroit's inconsistencies on that end of the floor have given Van Gundy headaches.
The Pistons (26-23) were ranked in the league's top 10 by allowing 99 points per game through Jan. 9, but are 5-7 since while surrendering an average of 105.4.
While an offense that spent the first month of the season regularly scoring fewer than 100 points and often under 90 has taken a step forward, it's a midseason defensive lull that has kept the Pistons from gaining any ground in the East - though they did snap a two-game skid with Monday's 105-100 win at Brooklyn.
"You don't feel a sense of urgency to put out maximum effort," Van Gundy told the team's official website. "That's where we've been, content to just stay in games and then if we get behind we'll go really hard. We're looking for chances to rest instead of playing a 48-minute game and we're just going to have to fight through that."
A plethora of injuries isn't helping the cause for Detroit, which is 11-15 away from home. Reggie Jackson jammed his thumb Monday and then aggravated it in Tuesday's practice. Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are tending to knee issues, Ersan Ilyasova has a groin injury and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is dealing with a strained oblique muscle.