While the Cleveland Cavaliers are charging fast, the early Eastern Conference front-runners will be meeting Monday in Boston, where the league-leading Celtics host the upstart Detroit Pistons. After its 16-game winning streak was halted last week in Miami, Boston picked itself up off the mat in a hurry with an easy triumph over Orlando and an impressive road victory one night later at Indiana - which had won five straight - without two starters.
Kyrie Irving scored 25 points as the Celtics again shook off a slow start with an impressive showing after halftime. “We were just being resilient as usual,” Irving told reporters. “We were able to limit some things (in the third quarter) and we made our push.” The Pistons were throttled by the Cavaliers two games ago but bounced back in fine fashion with a late rally and a 99-98 win at Oklahoma City on Friday. Like the Celtics, Detroit had to erase a big deficit, riding six double-digit scorers and a strong defensive effort that held the Thunder to 39 second-half points.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, NBCSN Boston
ABOUT THE PISTONS (12-6): Detroit’s rally from 15 points down at Oklahoma City was the latest in a series of dramatic comebacks for a squad that has already registered seven wins in which it trailed by double digits. “We’re just finding a way. It’s not pretty, but we’re just playing and trusting the game. The games will tell us what to do,” guard Reggie Jackson told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s something we’re matured in, letting the game tell us what to do and being aggressive. We’re not going to force the game, but playing basketball the right way — and it’s been working out.” Center Andre Drummond led the way on the stat sheet with 17 points and 14 rebounds for his 13th double-double, tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (18-3): Guard Jaylen Brown missed the 108-98 win at Indiana on Saturday to attend a funeral in Georgia, while forward Marcus Morris was given off the second half of a back-to-back in order to rest his knee. Both are expected to return for Monday’s contest, which is the opener of a five-game homestand and the beginning of a stretch in which Boston plays 14 of 21 at TD Garden. Al Horford, who snapped a string of four straight single-digit scoring performances with 21 against the Pacers, is shooting 62.3 percent from the field at home, compared to 48.4 on the road.
1. Celtics PG Marcus Smart, who is shooting 29.1 percent for the season, started in place of Brown on Saturday and shot 7-for-8 en route to 15 points.
2. This marks the return to Boston for former Celtic Avery Bradley, who was twice an All-Defensive team selection in seven seasons before being traded for Morris in July.
3. Boston won three of four meetings last season, splitting the two matchups at home.
PREDICTION: Celtics 107, Pistons 98