Pistons ousted from playoff chase in Monroe's return

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — On a night the Pistons were officially eliminated from the playoff chase, they put up some pretty numbers against the Celtics on Wednesday night.

They scored more than 100 points, shot 53.6 percent from the field, placed six players in double figures and three players recorded double-doubles. However, they were still blown out 113-103 by the Celtics who put up pretty good numbers of their own.

The most dangerous guy was the smallest guy. The Pistons could not stop 5-foot-9 reserve guard Isaiah Thomas who blitzed the Pistons for 34 points and six assists on 17 shots. The Celtics made 33 of 34 free throws while the Pistons were 6-of-10 from the line and committed 19 turnovers.

"A lot of guys had good numbers," Pistons coach Van Gundy said. "We had three guys with double-doubles. Jodie (Meeks) doesn't miss a shot. Everybody's numbers look good and you get blown out. You have to play the game to win and not to get numbers. We had a lot of guys get numbers but we didn't do what it takes to win. So I don't think anybody should leave out here happy with what they did and I hope they don't."

There were some tiny rays of sunshine, however.

Point guard Reggie Jackson (21 points and 15 assists) can play with or without Greg Monroe, which bodes well if the Moose decides to return next season after going through free agency. And Monroe played a pretty decent game against the Celtics. He wasn't the reason the Pistons lost.

Poor bench play and massive defensive lapses were.

The loss officially eliminates the Pistons (30-48) from the playoffs. They cannot catch the Celtics (36-42). The Pistons are now six games behind with four to play. It marks the sixth straight season the Pistons missed the playoffs and it is their seventh consecutive losing season.

When it was over, the Pistons did not walk off the court without shaking hands. They simply had that look of bitter defeat and hugged some of the Celtics players, including old teammates Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome. Now they officially begin the process of playing out the string with Friday night's game against the Pacers at the Palace.

Monroe returned to the starting lineup after sitting the last 11 games with a bad right knee. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but was not on the floor when the Celtics went on a 24-2 first-half run or when the Celtics made one more 19-4 move to take a 91-74 lead entering the fourth.

"I felt fine," Monroe said. "I was out but I didn't forget how to play basketball. People miss time.

"I had two good practices with my teammates. I think I got my timing down. It was a regular game."

The building blocks for the loss were simple.

Thomas hurt the Pistons in a variety of ways. He made four of eight 3-point shots, drove the lane for some of the easiest layups in NBA history and was 10-of-11 from the free throw line.

This Isaiah looked a lot like the old Isiah Thomas who carved out a Hall of Fame career during the Bad Boys era Pistons in the 1980s.

"We had to do a better job of containing him. That was basically it," Monroe said. "I don't think communication was a problem. We wanted to get him to go to his right hand more. That is one thing we wanted to do more and contain him off the dribble."

The Pistons were not in bad shape when Monroe checked out of the game for the first time with 4:24 remaining. They led 14-10 and shortly after things fell apart. The Pistons reserves appeared confused on offense and even more clueless defensively.

Defensive rotations were not only bad but they were almost comical as the Celtics carved them up inside and outside. Boston enjoyed runs of 20-0 and 24-2. By the time Monroe returned with 10:42 remaining in the second the Pistons trailed 34-19.

The Pistons sliced the lead to 72-70 early in the third quarter as Jackson rallied the Pistons. However, another dry spell — a 19-4 Celtics run led by Thomas — gave the Celtics a 91-74 lead headed into the fourth and ended the Pistons playoff dreams.

Prince had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists and surpassed 10,000 career points with a jumper midway through the fourth quarter.

It was an odd game for Drummond who finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds but at times appeared distracted. He was pulled by Van Gundy and when Drummond attempted to sit at the end of the bench, the coach made him sit closer to teammates.