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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Celtics Hang On to Beat Pistons and Clinch Playoff Berth
The game featured more bloopers than highlights.
It deserved a laugh track, perhaps of the Benny Hill variety.
And any basketball purist who was paying attention probably turned to stone.
Yes, Wednesday’s Boston-Detroit matchup was fit for an audience of one: Medusa.
Even though both teams tried their best to lose it in the final minutes, only one succeeded: the Pistons. Detroit exited TD Garden with a 98-93 loss.
With their win and Philadelphia’s loss at Charlotte, the Celtics clinched a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season — icing on top of a rather rotten performance.
Doc Rivers said he didn’t know his team was in for good until two of his assistant coaches grabbed him after and shouted, “Hey, we made the playoffs!”
Paul Pierce didn’t seem fazed by the occasion.
“I mean, we knew we were a playoff team before the season started,” the forward said after scoring 17 points, “so despite the injuries and everything, right now we just want to focus on continuing to play well going into the playoffs.”
Avery Bradley, who scored 11, had a different perspective.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s been a long season for us. We’ve been through a lot. For us to be in the playoffs, that’s an honor for us. All I can say is, we’ll be prepared.”
The biggest step in the Celtics’ postseason preparation is, without a doubt, the return of a healthy, rested and ready Kevin Garnett
Garnett missed his seventh consecutive game with inflammation in his left ankle and the Pistons, as other teams have done lately, took advantage, obliterating the Celtics around the rim.
Points in the paint: Detroit 58, Boston 28.
Second-chance points: Detroit 26, Boston 7.
Offensive rebounds: Detroit 25, Boston 4.
(Context: The 25 offensive rebounds by Detroit were the most of any team against the Celtics since Nov. 29, 2004, when Orlando grabbed that many in a Celtics’ win.)
“I don’t know how many rebounds Kevin is averaging, but we’re definitely missing some in that respect,” Jason Terry said. “Even the ones he doesn’t get, he’s boxing his man out, so that frees it up for everyone else. So, you’re missing a big piece.”
Detroit also shot 22 more shots than the Celtics and eight more free throws.
But the Celtics still won.
“You know, it’s funny, defensively, you could make a case that we had an unbelievable defensive night,” Rivers said. “They took 22 more shots than you did, and you still outscored them. That means you had to do a lot of good things defensively, and then offensively you have to be efficient. And we were.”
Jeff Green had another fantastic game, scoring a game-high 34 on 13-of-19 shooting, recording his third game of 30 or more points this season.
“I think now I’m in a good rhythm and picking and choosing where I can drive, where I can pull up, where I can shoot the three.” Green said. “And it’s working for me, so I’ve just got to continue to work at it and help my teammates out.”
Green scored 11 straight in the fourth quarter and hit a clutch 3-pointer with 45.3 seconds left.
Boston led by as much as 18, but Detroit used an 11-0 run to end the third quarter.
The Pistons then came to within 3 after Rodney Stuckey made a pair of free throws with 6:43 left in the fourth.
The Celtics responded with a 6-0 run, and Green’s put-back dunk with 3:36 left gave the Celtics a 91-83 lead.
Detroit again came within 3 after Jonas Jerebko made a 3-pointer with 2:29 left, but Brandon Knight blew a wide-open fast-break layup on Detroit’s next possession.
Green’s corner 3-pointer came soon after, putting the Celtics ahead by 5.
After a dunk by Greg Monroe, the Celtics missed a shot and Detroit had a chance to tie it, but Charlie Villanueva missed a 3-pointer with 17.9 seconds left.
Villanueva missed 15 of 17 shots, including all eight from beyond the arc.
“Couldn’t buy a basket,” Villanueva said. “Seemed like there was a lid on the rim for me.”
As for Green, the forward is forming a potent one-two combo with Pierce.
“I don’t try to take over games,” Green said. “That’s why we’ve got the Truth, that’s why we’ve got Paul. I’m playing off of him. We’re looking for each other, we’re being aggressive, and if it’s in my hands, I’m going to try to make a play. If it’s in his hands, he’s going to make a play. So, we’ve just got to play off each other.”
Pierce returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game at Minnesota, which he revealed late Wednesday was due to he and his wife welcoming their first son, Prince Paul Pierce, into the world.
Brandon Bass had 17 points and seven rebounds, continuing his recent trend of improved play.
Detroit was led by Monroe’s 24 points and 17 rebounds, but the Pistons didn’t help their own cause with 17 turnovers and 36.6 percent shooting from the floor.
The Pistons missed 20 of their 24 shots from beyond the arc.
Rivers joked that the ghost of Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach was in the building, helping Detroit miss so many open looks, from Knight’s layup to seemingly countless others.
With a playoff berth guaranteed, do the Celtics look at the standings, perhaps to eye their first-round foe?
“Where do you want to look at, New York or Indiana? There’s only two,” Terry said.
So, the Celtics don’t think they could fall to the eighth seed, setting up a first-round date with Miami?
“I don’t see it,” Terry said. “If somebody else does, that’s on them.”
The Celtics will make another postseason run, and they fittingly earned that right on a night when everything didn’t go as planned, when nothing seemed to come easy – just like their season.