Pistons snap eight-game skid, edge red-hot Celtics, 112-111
Boston — Entering Wednesday’s matchup, the Boston Celtics were coming off a 48-point shellacking of the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Pistons were on the wrong end of some lopsided, double-digit losses.
It made for what looked to be a predictable mismatch.
It wasn’t quite that, as neither team led by double digits, and the Pistons had a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter — and almost let it get away. They made the clutch shots down the stretch and held on for a 112-111 victory at TD Garden.
The Pistons ended their eight-game losing streak and ended the Celtics’ 9-game win streak. They head into the All-Star break with a 13-45 record, and they won’t play again until Feb. 24 at home against Cleveland.
“It (uplifts the team). The last 25 or 26 games, we have to bring this connected attitude, the connected feeling that we had tonight. Are we going to go 25-0? No, but it's still the growth that we're going to show that we showed tonight,” coach Dwane Casey said.
“It’s telling the way we can grow and the level we can play at. (Boston’s) a very good team, one of the top teams in the league right now, so that should give us confidence to go out and compete and shows how we need to play.”
Jerami Grant had 24 points, Saddiq Bey 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Cade Cunningham 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Grant had the go-ahead basket with 19.1 seconds left and the Pistons got the ball back but threw away the inbounds pass. They made another big stop as Cunningham blocked Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum (22 points and five assists) had a chance at the game-winner on a 17-foot jumper, but it was off the mark.
"It's huge," Grant said. "We had lost eight straight, so getting this win going into the break gives us a little confidence going into the rest of the season."
Grant took over for the Pistons in the final five minutes, scoring nine of their 12 points during a furious comeback. He had a dunk, a drive and a 3-pointer for seven straight points. Bey chipped in a clutch 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to get within 108-106 at the 2:17 mark.
After creating a turnover, Grant came through again with a driving lay-up to tie it. Bey followed with a putback and the Pistons had their first lead since early in the quarter.
The Celtics (34-26) jumped back in front with a corner 3-pointer by Al Horford (19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) before Grant’s eventual game-winner.
The Pistons withstood a few Celtics runs, and early in the fourth quarter, it looked to be a knockout blow, as Boston scored 13 straight points, turning a 92-86 Pistons lead into a 99-92 advantage.
During their losing streak, the Pistons had their share of bad defensive stretches and turnovers. Against the Celtics, they had 17 turnovers for 23 Celtics points, but the Pistons played defense when they needed to and had a cohesiveness that’s been absent during the losing skid.
“When you develop into a good team, the mistakes and runs are less. There's always going to be runs and mistakes because it's a game of mistakes,” Casey said. “You're going to have those, but we had fewer of them in certain situations.
“When we needed to stop, sometimes we got a stop. It wasn't a continuous compounding of mistakes and Lord knows we made some mistakes tonight, but they just weren't as prevalent or in sequence right after another. That was the difference — they were spread out.”
Grant Williams (17 points), who went 4-of-7 on 3-pointers, connected twice in the stretch, and Brown (31 points and six assists) scored on a coast-to-coast drive and Tatum finished the run with a 3-pointer at the 6:38 mark.
The Pistons stayed in the game, answering with a drive by Cunningham and a putback by Isaiah Stewart (12 points and six rebounds). The Celtics followed with a 3-pointer by Horford and a pair of free throws from Tatum.
One of the big keys to the game was 3-point shooting, as the Pistons connected on 53% (16-of-30) with five by Bey, four by Grant and three each from Cunningham and Kelly Olynyk (15 points and six rebounds).