After a lethargic performance Friday, the Boston Celtics had the rest of the weekend off in order to get energized for a road matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
The Celtics are at the top of the Eastern Conference standings and face the club at the bottom after both were defeated by the Phoenix Suns over the past few days.
Boston shot 38.7 percent from the field while losing at home to the Suns 106-94. The Celtics have been held under 100 points three times while losing four of their last six games.
“We just didn’t have the enthusiasm (Friday),” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “Just kind of going through the motions as a unit.”
The Celtics looked as if Friday’s game required less than a full effort, with the Suns still awaiting the return of Devin Booker from a groin injury.
“The way that we played, that’s fair to say,” Boston forward Al Horford said. “We have to find a way. You let a team get confidence like that and it’s tough to slow them down. They’re professionals and we need to do a better job with that despite who is on that other side. There’s a certain level we need to play with.”
Boston has played without guard Marcus Smart during their current uneven six-game stretch. The Celtics had a nine-game winning streak before Smart injured his ankle.
“Marcus brings energy to the game,” Brown said. “He brings pace to the game. He gets us easier shots, easier looks for our guys. And defensively, he adds that tenaciousness that gets us going, picks us up in games like this.”
The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 30.9 points, had one of his worst offensive performances of the season against the Suns. Tatum shot 3 of 15 from the field while scoring 20 points, with the total enhanced by his 11 made free throws.
Tatum had no trouble with efficient scoring during Boston’s first two games against Detroit this season. He had 31 points in a 128-112 win over the Pistons on Nov. 9 and 43 points in a 117-108 triumph on Nov. 12.
Detroit lost to Phoenix 116-100 on Saturday. The Pistons, who never led, trailed by double digits most of the second half after the Suns opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run.
“We didn’t set the tone,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s something we always talk about — set the tone coming out of the locker room in the first quarter and the third quarter. We had been doing a decent job of that but (Saturday) we didn’t.”
The Pistons defeated Charlotte 118-112 the previous night. Detroit lacked the same verve on the second night of a back-to-back and Casey considered it inexcusable.
“That’s part of being tough,” Casey said. “Tough is a mindset, playing through adversity, playing through mental fatigue and physical fatigue. We think we’re tired, but they played (Friday) night, too. So, growing up and understanding that is another lesson for us. We have so many lessons that we have to learn.”
Saddiq Bey scored a combined 47 points over the weekend while coming off the bench, including seven made 3-pointers. Following a slow start, Bey has increased his scoring average to 15.0 points — third-best on the team among players who have appeared in at least 40 games.
–Field Level Media