AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Doc Rivers can’t stand mediocrity. If his Boston Celtics don’t shape up soon, he wants some of his players shipped out.
Rivers, the Celtics’ coach, was mortified by his team’s third straight loss, a 103-88 thumping by the Detroit Pistons at The Palace on Sunday. His club never had a lead as it sank to .500 nearing the season’s midway point.
“We’re taking the wrong approach,” he said. “I’ve either got to find the right combination, the right guys, or we’re going to get some guys out of here. This group right now, they’re not playing right.”
The Celtics’ 20-20 record would still good enough for the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But with three perennial All-Stars in the lineup, they expect a whole lot more from themselves.
“We’re playing awful,” Rivers said. “I’m clearly not doing my job with this team. I’m serious. I’m not trying to take a bullet for the team. I told them I think we’ve got to find something where every night all 12 guys play the same way.
“I don’t think we have the commitment to be a good basketball team. This team wants everything easy, they want the easy way out. They want to win easy, but the only way you’re going to win easy is you’re going to have to play hard.”
The Pistons have made beating the Celtics look easy the last two seasons, winning four straight by an average of 15 points. Detroit (15-25) ended a two-game slide with Sunday’s win and clinched this season’s three-game series. It defeated the Celtics 103-83 in the first meeting on Nov. 18.
“The last two games at home, we got off to great starts against them,” Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. “We put a lot of pressure on them early, getting the ball up the court fast and making plays. The start of the game is what really kind of dictated everything. They came on huge in the second quarter, but we kept our composure, especially after halftime.”
Rookie center Andre Drummond had 16 points to lead a balanced Pistons attack. Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Will Bynum scored 15 apiece for the Pistons, who had six players in double figures.
Drummond credited Knight and Bynum for their floor leadership.
“They’re our backbone, and when they get it going, everybody gets it going,” Drummond said. “Brandon came out and gave us great energy and we fed off him.”
Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee scored 16 apiece for Boston. Rajon Rondo, who scored a season-high 30 points against Chicago on Friday, was limited to eight points on 4-of-16 shooting, and Paul Pierce had just 10 points.
“Everybody’s upset,” Garnett said. “We thought we had good momentum and then we lost a couple of games at home and now this. We’re just trying to figure it out.”
Sloppy play was the norm, as the teams combined for 39 turnovers.
A 15-4 Pistons run gave them a 70-58 lead midway through the third quarter. The Celtics scored the next eight points, but the Pistons nudged the advantage back to 10, 81-71, by the end of the quarter.
Detroit opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 spurt, including a Drummond alley-oop dunk, for an 89-73 lead. Boston never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way even though the Pistons went through a 4:27 scoreless drought.
The Pistons led by 18 early in the second quarter, but the Celtics turned up the defensive pressure to pull within 52-48 by halftime. Boston forced seven turnovers in the quarter and scored 12 points off them. The Celtics got a big boost from their bench, as Jeff Green and Lee each scored 12 first-half points.
Knight, who scored just one point in the Pistons’ loss to New York in London on Thursday, had 12 points to lead his club in the early going.
NOTES: Garnett appeared in his 1,295th career game. He will tie Mark Jackson for 13th place on the NBA games played list with his next appearance. …. Drummond has 65 blocks, the third-most by a rookie in franchise history. John Salley (1986-87) holds the record with 125. … The Celtics have employed 11 different lineups this season, while the Pistons have used just two. …. Monroe had 11 rebounds as Detroit had a 50-42 rebounding advantage. … Prince added 14 points for Detroit, while Green had 15 for Boston.