For brief stretches of Sunday night’s game against the Pistons, the Celtics  looked like a competent basketball team. For most of the night, however, they looked like a team that would rather be anywhere but on the court.
It was hard to pick one moment that stood out as the worst in their 96-81 loss. There was the disastrous second quarter that saw them turn the ball over nine times while allowing six offensive rebounds and 16 free throws. Then there was Rajon Rondo  getting thrown out late in the third quarter after a half-hearted comeback attempt had already run out of steam.
The Pistons shot a staggering 46 free throws, compared to 15 for Boston. Say what you want about the officiating — and the Celtics said plenty, picking up four technical fouls — but that speaks volumes about who was the aggressive team.
The Celtics are a .500 basketball team again and with games against the red-hot Mavs and the West-leading Thunder coming up, there’s a decent chance they will be less than that when the All-Star break mercifully happens next weekend.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The Celtics scored 26 points and shots 65 percent in the first quarter. They had assists on eight of their 11 made baskets and the scoring load was evenly distributed between Paul Pierce , Chris Wilcox  and Jermaine O’Neal . That was when Rondo went out of the game for a break, and once again the Celtics’ second unit failed to do anything offensively. It took them almost a quarter to score a basket and by that time Detroit had run up a 38-29 lead. Things were about to get worse.
— The Celtics committed 18 fouls in the first half, yielding 29 free throws. This, naturally, led to complaints about the officiating from Doc Rivers  and Wilcox, who were both given technical fouls. Both men had valid complaints, but the Celtics were fouling guard Rodney Stuckey  almost every time he drove to the basket because they couldn’t stay in front of him and they weren’t going to the line themselves because they once again turned into a jump-shooting team.
— Of course, the officials had nothing to do with the fact that the Celtics turned it over 13 times and yielded 10 offensive rebounds in the first half.
— Frustrated over a lack of calls, Rondo got shown the gate when he whipped the ball at referee Sean Wright late in the third quarter. The Celtics need more from their point guard.
— JaJuan Johnson  got pushed around physically by the Pistons front line. He better get used to it because that’s how it’s going to be every night until he proves himself.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— The Celtics once again kept a team under 40 percent shooting. It would have helped if they had rebounded those misses.
— O’Neal had eight points, five blocks and 11 rebounds.