When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench.

When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench. Over a 2:21 stretch in the final minutes of regulation, the 24-year-old big scored 10 straight points — all either within 4 feet of the basket or from the free throw line — during a furious comeback to force overtime.

“We played pretty well in a lot of the fourth quarter, until the very end,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Monroe, obviously, that’€™s a tough spot, especially when you’€™re coaching, because you know what can beat you is the 3, and they keep chipping away with two after two. I thought [Brandon] Bass and Tyler Zeller guarded them about as well as you could, but he just made shot after shot after shot.”

The Celtics had few, if any, answers for Monroe or Andre Drummond, who combined for 56 points (21-35 FG), 21 rebounds and six blocks. (And, yet, somehow the Pistons still managed to lose to a Celtics team that shot a combined 39.8 percent from the field.) The C’s could sure use a guy like that.

Actually, the Celtics could sure use that guy. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

For some odd reason, the Pistons brought Monroe off the bench in favor of Smith and Kyle Singler alongside Drummond in the frontcourt. Detroit is 0-6 without Monroe in the starting lineup. The Pistons score 7.2 more points and allow 8.3 fewer points with Monroe on the court, according to Basketball Reference. If I were him, I wouldn’t be too happy backing up one of the league’s least efficient scorers. (For the record, the Pistons are 12.5 points per 100 possessions worse with Smith on the floor.)

After collecting 29 points (9-17 FG, 11-11 FT) and seven rebounds in the 109-102 loss to the Celtics, Monroe provided all the right answers to a line of questioning about his adjustment to a newfound reserve role, and then finished, “I just have to continue to get comfortable coming off the bench.”

When the Pistons and Monroe failed to reach a long-term extension this past summer, he opted to sign a one-year, $5.5 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. With Detroit unable to find a trade partner for the three years and $40.5 million left on Smith’s burdensome contract, it seems increasingly likely Monroe could be the odd man out of the crowded Pistons frontcourt.

“I’m always trying to get quality,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in his weekly interview with CBS Radio. “We’re trying to get better players, more impactful players. We do have a hole from a rim-protecting standpoint, and you can’t just add rim protection and then give up other things that you have that are solid. So, they’re not easy to find. A quality one, I should say, is not easy to find. Maybe through the draft or free agency, but we will continue to work all the way to the trade deadline to see if we can fix that hole in the meantime.”

Should the Celtics or any team seek a trade for Monroe, the 6-foot-11, 253-pound former No. 7 overall pick would have to waive his Bird rights, which diminishes the amount of money he could make this summer. Still, Ainge would have enough cap space in 2015 to offer Monroe a hefty contract, and Boston is made more attractive by the presence of Monroe’s fellow Georgetown product Jeff Green.

“We’re really good friends,” said Monroe. “Obviously, he’s originally from D.C., so he’s always home in the summer, and I spend a lot of time back at school, so we’re together a lot. We have the same agent and stuff like that, so we have a pretty good relationship. I would say we’re good friends.”

The Hoya fraternity is a close-knit group, as evidenced by Green, Monroe and Otto Porter making a trip to Indiana for Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals in an effort to support Roy Hibbert.

Accompanying the Georgetown foursome was their agent, David Falk, whose small list of active clients also includes Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner as well as former Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘ son Austin. Needless to say, Monroe has more ties to Boston than you might expect from a native of Harvey, La.

Should Green decline his $9.2 million player option for the 2015-16 season, he too would become an unrestricted free agent, and the Hoya duo has discussed joining forces on the Celtics, even if in jest.

“We joke about it,” said Monroe, who could command a max deal in the four-year, $60 million range this summer. “We all joke about it, man, but obviously it’s a lot more than us two coming here or us two talking about it. Right now, I’m just focused on where I’m at. Whenever the time is and if everything is right, then obviously I’ll always weigh my options, but right now I’m not worried about that.”

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench. Over a 2:21 stretch in the final minutes of regulation, the 24-year-old big scored 10 straight points — all either within 4 feet of the basket or from the free throw line — during a furious comeback to force overtime.

“We played pretty well in a lot of the fourth quarter, until the very end,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Monroe, obviously, that’€™s a tough spot, especially when you’€™re coaching, because you know what can beat you is the 3, and they keep chipping away with two after two. I thought [Brandon] Bass and Tyler Zeller guarded them about as well as you could, but he just made shot after shot after shot.”

The Celtics had few, if any, answers for Monroe or Andre Drummond, who combined for 56 points (21-35 FG), 21 rebounds and six blocks. (And, yet, somehow the Pistons still managed to lose to a Celtics team that shot a combined 39.8 percent from the field.) The C’s could sure use a guy like that.

Actually, the Celtics could sure use that guy. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

For some odd reason, the Pistons brought Monroe off the bench in favor of Smith and Kyle Singler alongside Drummond in the frontcourt. Detroit is 0-6 without Monroe in the starting lineup. The Pistons score 7.2 more points and allow 8.3 fewer points with Monroe on the court, according to Basketball Reference. If I were him, I wouldn’t be too happy backing up one of the league’s least efficient scorers. (For the record, the Pistons are 12.5 points per 100 possessions worse with Smith on the floor.)

After collecting 29 points (9-17 FG, 11-11 FT) and seven rebounds in the 109-102 loss to the Celtics, Monroe provided all the right answers to a line of questioning about his adjustment to a newfound reserve role, and then finished, “I just have to continue to get comfortable coming off the bench.”

When the Pistons and Monroe failed to reach a long-term extension this past summer, he opted to sign a one-year, $5.5 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2015. With Detroit unable to find a trade partner for the three years and $40.5 million left on Smith’s burdensome contract, it seems increasingly likely Monroe could be the odd man out of the crowded Pistons frontcourt.

“I’m always trying to get quality,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in his weekly interview with CBS Radio. “We’re trying to get better players, more impactful players. We do have a hole from a rim-protecting standpoint, and you can’t just add rim protection and then give up other things that you have that are solid. So, they’re not easy to find. A quality one, I should say, is not easy to find. Maybe through the draft or free agency, but we will continue to work all the way to the trade deadline to see if we can fix that hole in the meantime.”

Should the Celtics or any team seek a trade for Monroe, the 6-foot-11, 253-pound former No. 7 overall pick would have to waive his Bird rights, which diminishes the amount of money he could make this summer. Still, Ainge would have enough cap space in 2015 to offer Monroe a hefty contract, and Boston is made more attractive by the presence of Monroe’s fellow Georgetown product Jeff Green.

“We’re really good friends,” said Monroe. “Obviously, he’s originally from D.C., so he’s always home in the summer, and I spend a lot of time back at school, so we’re together a lot. We have the same agent and stuff like that, so we have a pretty good relationship. I would say we’re good friends.”

The Hoya fraternity is a close-knit group, as evidenced by Green, Monroe and Otto Porter making a trip to Indiana for Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals in an effort to support Roy Hibbert.

Accompanying the Georgetown foursome was their agent, David Falk, whose small list of active clients also includes Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner as well as former Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘ son Austin. Needless to say, Monroe has more ties to Boston than you might expect from a native of Harvey, La.

Should Green decline his $9.2 million player option for the 2015-16 season, he too would become an unrestricted free agent, and the Hoya duo has discussed joining forces on the Celtics, even if in jest.

“We joke about it,” said Monroe, who could command a max deal in the four-year, $60 million range this summer. “We all joke about it, man, but obviously it’s a lot more than us two coming here or us two talking about it. Right now, I’m just focused on where I’m at. Whenever the time is and if everything is right, then obviously I’ll always weigh my options, but right now I’m not worried about that.”

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

After finishing 1-for-6 from the field against the Pistons, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has now scored just two points in each of his last three games.

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

In his first action in almost a month, Celtics rookie Marcus Smart played just 4:38 of the first half of Wednesday’s 109-102 overtime win over the Pistons, but he feels ready to contribute more.

“It felt good to be out there,” said Smart, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts, collecting two assists and a pair of fouls. “Last game I played was Nov. 7, so it’€™s always a good feeling to get back out there with this group of guys and get a feel for the game again. I felt like I could’€™ve gave more, but we’€™re taking things slow, and that’€™s just kind of how it goes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens sounded more cautious about Smart’s availability so soon after a severe ankle sprain, opting instead to play Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace a combined 26 minutes.

“I didn’t think he looked ready,” said Stevens. “It had nothing to do physically. He hadn’t practiced. I felt like it would be better to go with Phil and Gerald. They would give us the same things that Marcus gave us, and they’ve been traveling with the team and everything else. That’s kind of tough to just throw him in there. I didn’t even see him until we got to the gym today.”

“What he says goes,” countered Smart. “If he felt like I wasn’€™t ready, then that’€™s what it is. I thought I was ready. I was lagging a little bit until my ankle got warm, and then once it did, by that time I was already out of the game. But, like I said, we’€™re just taking things slow, so it’€™s all good.”

The Celtics do not plan on practicing Thursday and will hold only a walk-through session prior to Friday’s game, so there isn’t much of a window for Smart to make up for lost time. Still, Smart is optimistic he’ll be able to impact his first career game against the Lakers.

“It’€™s the rivalry,” he said. “We’€™ve got 17 [championships]; they’€™ve got 16. Everybody knows that. I’€™m excited. I definitely feel like I’€™ll be ready Friday to give a little bit more, but it really comes down to how coach feels and if he feels like I’€™m able to give more.”

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

After finishing 1-for-6 from the field against the Pistons, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has now scored just two points in each of his last three games. He’s been held to single digits in six of his last seven outings. And he hasn’t made a free throw since Nov. 23.

This isn’t your older brother’s Rajon Rondo.

“I’ve not been myself,” he said after a 109-102 win snapped a five-game losing streak. “I haven’t been as aggressive. I haven’t been making shots. I’ve been turning the ball over. So, like I said, a lot of those losses I put on myself, and I’ve got to find a better rhythm.”

How, exactly, does Rondo plan to find that rhythm? He could start by attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line and breaking out of his 30 percent free-throw shooting funk.

“I don’t really have the answer,” added Rondo, who had eight assists against four turnovers. “If I had it, I’d probably figure it out, but I’m still confident in myself. I’m still believing in myself. So, that hasn’t shied away from my game, and I’ll continue to get better.”

Things have gotten so bad that Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched Rondo for one possession on each end in the final minute of a one-possession game, replacing him with Evan Turner for free-throw shooting and defensive purposes. In the final minutes of overtime, the Celtics actively kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands in order to avoid any Hack-A-Rondo attempts. It’s hard to remember any team ever freezing out an All-Star and All-Defensive point guard in such a manner.

“Evan’s shooting 87 percent or something?” said Stevens, who sold Turner short on his 92 percent free-throw shooting. “We were playing Rondo off the ball in some actions … and it doesn’t really matter who has it to me. I took him out the one time, and I immediately regretted it. I felt like I should have had him back in, so I had him take the ball out the rest of the time.”

Regardless of how Stevens couched his reasoning, it was obvious the Celtics did not trust their captain with the ball in the final minutes of a close game, and that strategy actually worked to their advantage in their first home victory in almost a month. That’s not normal.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics entered Wednesday’s meeting with the Pistons at the TD Garden losers of eight of their last nine games. Not a good look to begin with, but even worse when you factor in their only victory during the streak came against the (then) winless 76ers.

The Celtics entered Wednesday’s meeting with the Pistons at the TD Garden as losers of eight of their last nine games. Not a good look to begin with, but even worse when you factor in that the C’s only win during the steak came against the winless 76ers. Detroit came into the game in Boston with a record of 3-15, so if there was a time for the Celtics to get back on track, this was it.

It took overtime to get the job done, but Boston finally got its victory, 109-102. Caron Butler hit a 3-pointer with just 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie it up at 88 apiece. The Celtics then failed to convert on the final possesion of regulation as Andre Drummond swatted away Jeff Green‘s layup attempt at what seemed to be its highest point.

The C’s put forward a well-rounded effort despite an off night from Rajon Rondo, but Green and Kelly Olynyk were the two stars. Green had 18 points through the first three quarters, then Olynyk took over with seven quick points to begin the fourth. Green finished with a game-high 32 points, netting six 3-pointers on the night. Olynyk had 20 points of his own, while also putting forward an uncharacteristic three blocks. Jared Sullinger was the only other Celtic in double figures, as he hit two big 3-pointers (and another deep 2-pointer) in the overtime en route to his 14 points.

RAJON RONDO NEEDS TO PLAY MORE MINUTES AND FIND WAYS TO STAY ON THE FLOOR LATE IN GAMES

Rondo has been playing seven minutes per quarter pretty consistently. Despite some questions about his late game antics and ability to close out games, the Celtics are a much better team (at least offensively) when he is on the floor. Rondo had played a mere 19 minutes entering the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game. He wasn’t having anywhere close to his best game, but in his defense, it’s pretty hard to find a good rhythm when playing such few minutes.

A good example of this was when Stevens removed Rondo from the lineup with six minutes remaining in the game, seemingly without reason since Rondo had played only 24 minutes to that point. Rondo wound up scoring just two points for the second night in a row, this time with just three boards and eight assists. He played 34 minutes, but committed a huge turnover with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, and Stevens ended up benching him for the Celtics‘ second to last possession of regulation.

The benching ended up being a big deal. Stevens sat Rondo on another important possession in overtime, likely to hide Rondo from being sent to the free throw line (where he shoots an atrocious 30 percent on the season). Rondo also seemed to hide from the ball on possessions leading up the the second benching, which could have been reason for Stevens to sit him down.

Long story short: Rondo absolutely needs to fix his free throw shooting problem. The fact that an All-Star point guard needs to be bench late in games due to foul shooting is unheard of.

MARCUS SMART RETURNED AFTER MISSING 10 GAMES WITH A SPRAINED ANKLE

However, it ended up not being much of a return. Brad Stevens waited until the 10:38 mark of the second quarter to insert Smart into the game. He certainly took his time getting Smart out there as Phil Pressey even saw some unexpected time in the first frame (more on Pressey later).

When Smart did see the floor, he seemed timid, or at least not the ferocious defender we grew used to seeing in the rookie’s first five games (plus preseason). He played just under five minutes in his first shift, missing all three of his attempts from the field. His first shift ended up being his only shift, though. Smart didn’t see the court again.

PHIL PRESSEY EARNED MINUTES OVER MARCUS SMART

Smart’s recovery was probably part of the issue, but Pressey played a lot in this game in favor of Smart. In nine first half minutes, Pressey connected on both of his field goal attempts for five points to go along with three rebounds and a pair of assists.

Pressey even saw some fourth quarter minutes in place of Rondo during crunch time. Stevens clearly has trust in his second-year point guard right now. By game’s end, Pressey totaled seven points, three rebounds and four assists. Nothing too flashy in the box score, but he had a strong impact on the game in his 18 minutes (which were two minutes short of his season-high).

STOPPING ANDRE DRUMMOND WAS TOO TALL A TASK

The Celtics frontline has been undersized all season. Stevens tried to get more physical and defensive minded by inserting Tyler Zeller into the starting lineup to stop guys like Drummond. It didn’t work.

Drummond is an athletic freak that any NBA big would have trouble facing off with, but the Celtics had an even tougher time. Drummond went for 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter alone, while also ripping down 6 rebounds and swatting a shot.

Drummond was a beast through out the entire game, finishing multiple difficult ally-oops around the rim. He has 27 points and 14 rebounds in his 41 minutes played, shooting 12-for-18 overall. Drummond also had four steals and five blocks, include the block that prevented Green from winning the game in regulation for the Celtics. Frankly, Drummond is the exact type of player that the Celtics need to add.

THE CELTICS FINALLY FINISHED A GAME

Repeat: The Celtics finally finished a game. There’s not much more to say about it, other than that this was an important win for a team having major issues with closing out games. At times it felt like we would never see the Celtics figure out how to wrap up a win again. It took playing opposite the now 3-16 Pistons to find that win, and as ugly as the overtime victory was, the C’s got it. Let’s see if this can give them any momentum going forward, or if they fall back into their losing ways when Kobe Bryant and the Lakers come to town on Friday night.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

After a 10 game absence, it appears the Celtics will finally have Marcus Smart back in the lineup on Wednesday when they take on the Pistons in Boston. Smart has been recovering from a severe left ankle sprain that occurred at home against the Pacers on Nov. 7.

“Indications are that he will be available to play,” Stevens said of the rookie prior to tip-off.

So how much will Smart be available to play on Wednesday?

“Well, I don’t know,” Stevens replied. “Just because he hasn’t even practiced, really, with us. It’s hard to tell. He probably won’t play quite as much, he could be on a little bit of a minutes [restriction]. So, [it’s] hard to tell. I think we need what he brings on a normal basis, so hopefully he’s able to do that.”

In the five games Smart did play in for the C’s (including the game he got injured during), he averaged 6.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Although he struggled mightily with his shooting, Smart’s best quality had been his defensive intensity. Stevens will be counting on Smart bringing the same intensity in his return on Wednesday.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

One night after blowing a 23-point lead in suffering their fifth straight loss, the Celtics return home in hopes of snapping their streak of futility. In this instance, Boston (4-11) will host a team with even fewer wins (the three-win Pistons) in an effort to right the ship, and WEEI.com will offer full coverage and analysis from TD Garden. For all the latest, follow along with the live blog, below.

Live Blog Celtics vs. Pistons live blog
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI