After the Pistons opened their first double-digit lead of the second half, Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to his bench, but it wasn't enough to counter Detroit's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson, who combined 54 points in a 119-116 victory.
Once the Pistons built a 14-point, fourth quarter lead -- their largest of the night, Jonas Jerebko's nine points on three straight 3-pointers helped the C's cut the deficit to four. But before Jerebko's final 3-pointer, Jackson converted three free throws on a questionable shooting foul that extended Detroit's lead to seven. In the end, Jackson scored seven more points and Caldwell-Pope added four from the free-throw line in the final minutes for the Pistons.
Isaiah Thomas made a 3-pointer in the final seconds that cut the lead to 118-116. The Celtics fouled Jackson, who missed his second attempt, but with no timeouts remaining Jared Sullinger's desperation heave from the opposite end of the floor sailed wide in the final 1.7 seconds.
Remarkably, the Celtics loss on the second night of a back-to-back on the road for just the first time in 11 games. Thomas scored a career-high 38 points, Sullinger added a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller scored 12 off the bench. Caldwell-Pope netted a team-high 31 points, Jackson dropped 23 and Andre Drummond had a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) for the Pistons.
Thomas was the most consistent scorer for the Celtics, and he did it for four quarters. He finished with 38 points on 11-for-20 shooting, adding six assists to finish as a plus-12 on the night.
Bradley scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. The Celtics could have used his offense to counter Detroit's offensive back court. Bradley's jump shot looked flat, and so did his defense opposite Caldwell-Pope.
"We just needed to play better, that's the bottom line," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "That's a good team, and we know it was going to be a good team, and that we would have to play really well to win. We didn't play well." [AP]The Celtics were whistled for 35 fouls. The Pistons shot 74.4 percent from the charity stripe on 32-of-43 shots. The Celtics enacted a Hack-a-Drummond routine, intentionally putting Drummond on the line for six attempts (3-6), and then fouled to get the ball back at the end of the game, but those aside -- the Celtics have to play better defense.
Meanwhile, the Celtics could have set up a game-tying play with a scant 1.7 seconds left if they had a timeout remaining. Stevens has to do a better job conserving his timeouts to give his young team a chance at the end of games.
It seemed like whenever the Pistons were on a run the Celtics would commit costly turnovers -- the C's committed 18. They forced bad passes, committed offensive fouls and lost the ball at times when they needed to find their offense.
photo courtesy of associated press