AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Amid stories about Jeremy Lin and the upcoming All-Star game, the Detroit Pistons have quietly become one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Greg Monroe had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Rodney Stuckey added 16 points to lead the surging Detroit Pistons over the Boston Celtics 96-81 on Sunday night.
Detroit has now won seven of its last nine games, including two victories in five days over the Celtics, who were missing Kevin Garnett (personal reasons) and Brandon Bass (left knee).
“I think we’ve found our effort, focus and intensity,” said Monroe, who had his 16th double-double of the season. “Everyone on this team understands their role now, and we’re all working.”
The streak started at about the same time Jason Maxiell replaced Ben Wallace in the starting lineup. Maxiell had 10 rebounds and six points against the Celtics.
“Max had an unbelievable impact on this game with his hustle and work on the boards,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “But that has also let us set up the rotation so that we are getting great minutes off the bench from Jonas (Jerebko) and Body (Wallace).”
Without Garnett and Bass, former Pistons player Chris Wilcox was inserted into the starting lineup.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 18 points.
“We just pretty much gave them everything they wanted tonight,” a frustrated Pierce said. “They were able to run the ball on the break, get offensive rebounds on top of that, and we turned the ball over far too many times.”
The Pistons scored 40 points off 24 turnovers, while the Celtics got only 13 points off Detroit’s 15 giveaways. The Pistons also had a 29-6 edge in second-chance points.
“I thought the second unit came in and changed the game in the second quarter,” Frank said. “They turned up the intensity, and we were able to maintain that for the rest of the night.
“Look at the points off turnovers, free throws and second-chance points. That’s all effort.”
The Pistons led 55-42 at halftime, but they could have been ahead by 20. Detroit took 29 free throws in the first half — the Celtics had just 10 — but missed 12 of them.
Doc Rivers and Wilcox both picked up technical fouls in the first half for arguing calls.
“At halftime, we were shooting 50 percent, they were shooting 38 percent, and we were down 13,” Rivers said. “You look at that and you think you are playing good defense, but we were turning the ball over and giving up offensive rebounds and we fouled every possession. The
fact we were only down 13 was a miracle.”
Boston finally started getting to the line in the third quarter, pulling to 59-54 before Jermaine O’Neal missed a pair of free throws that could have made it a three-point game.
That seemed to take the wind out of Boston’s sails, and the Pistons needed less than three minutes to move the lead back to 12. Moments later, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo picked up two technicals in a span of five seconds and was ejected.
“Boston hit us first in the second half, and we staggered, but we didn’t go down,” Frank said. “I thought that was the key. We came right back and went after them again.”
Even with the Pistons missing five more free throws, they led 75-61 at the end of the third.
“We made the one energy run to start the third and got it to five, but then we had another couple horrendous turnovers,” Rivers said. “At the end of the day, I have to do a better job with this group.”
NOTES: Rivers said he knew on Thursday that Garnett would be unavailable, but doesn’t know if he will rejoin the team in time for Monday’s game in Dallas. … The Pistons finished with an 46-15 edge in free-throw attempts. … Detroit won 98-88 in Boston on Wednesday. … Rapper Flo Rida’s halftime show helped the Pistons sell out their first game since the home opener.