Back-to-back games against the preseason favorite in the Eastern Conference should tell the unbeaten Detroit Pistons how good they really are.
The Pistons have built a 4-0 record behind a free-flowing offense featuring Blake Griffin and some good fortune. Every team they’ve faced had at least one key starter missing due to injury.
They now draw the deep, talented Boston Celtics for a home-and-home set. The first game will be played Saturday at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena. The rematch will be Tuesday in Boston.
Detroit kept its perfect record intact with a 110-103 victory on Thursday over the winless Cleveland Cavaliers, who were missing their best player, Kevin Love.
Griffin ranked second among the NBA’s scoring leaders at 33.8 points per game heading into Friday’s action after posting 26 points against the Cavaliers. Center Andre Drummond notched his second 20-20 game of the season with 26 points and 22 rebounds.
The Pistons haven’t gone undefeated through their first four games since the 2008-09 season.
“We can’t get too excited, it’s still early,” Drummond said. “It’s early in the season, and there’s a lot of games to go.”
Detroit is averaging 116 points per game, but none of the victories have come easily. The Pistons led the Cavaliers throughout the second half but couldn’t pull away. Their first three victories were secured by a combined six points.
“I think you’re always trying to get better down the stretch,” Griffin said. “We haven’t really been as good as we should be at this point with just executing. It’s a matter of one, two, three stops, that’s it, and we just haven’t done it yet. We’ve also gotten wins and we’ll take them.”
The Celtics (3-2) have struggled offensively, but finally found a rhythm during the second half against Oklahoma City on Thursday. After going 0 of 11 from long range before halftime, Boston canned 11 of 20 3-point attempts in the second half of a 101-95 victory.
“We finally looked like ourselves again,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Boston ranks 28th in field-goal percentage at 40.7.
A 40-point third quarter helped it erase a 16-point halftime deficit. So did some calming words from Stevens.
“Brad came in the locker room and told us, ‘We’re getting good shots, we’re playing good defense for the most part. We’re just too tense,'” Jayson Tatum told NBA.com and other media outlets. “Nobody was smiling. Nobody was having fun. And that was the difference in the second half.”
Tatum leads the Celtics in scoring (18.8 points per game) and rebounding (9.6). Kyrie Irving ranks second in scoring (16.6), but both players have struggled from beyond the arc, with Tatum shooting 27.3 percent and Irving 21.4 percent.
Backup center and former Piston Aron Baynes has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain and is questionable to play Saturday.
“Baynes wants to play all the time,” Stevens said. “He still tries to race people off the bus after a hamstring injury. You love that part about him. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a fun guy. It kills him to not be able to play.”
Detroit will be without backup guard Luke Kennard, who suffered a shoulder sprain against Cleveland.