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Win in Detroit shows Celtics need their young guns now more than ever

02.26.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly is as ugly does. 

In one of the choppiest and most disconcerting games of the season, the Celtics blew a 15-point third-quarter lead and allowed the ice-cold Pistons to take a late lead. 

Jaylen Brown drilled a baseline three with 37.6 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead for good and Marcus Smart showed his typical toughness by drawing a foul and making two free throws to power the Celtics past the Pistons, 104-98, Sunday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. 

The win snapped a two-game skid and lifted Boston to 38-21 on the season. 

The Celtics were awful on the offensive glass after misses by the Pistons at the free throw line. They allowed five offensive rebounds by the Pistons on such instances, two of them leading to wide-open 3-pointers. 

The Pistons were awful at the free throw line, led by Andre Drummond, the worst free-throw shooter in NBA history. The Detroit big man missed 10 of his 11 attempts on the night and the Pistons were 16-for-35 as a team from the charity stripe. 

Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as the Celtics used an 18-3 run to build their lead up to as many as 12, 47-35. 

Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were a combined 7-for-9 from the field in the first half. Rozier, a key player with Avery Bradley out of action for the last six weeks, made offensive impact backing up Isaiah Thomas at the point. He also saw some playing time with Thomas. (Coach Brad Stevens indicated before Sunday’s game that Bradley could return this week, possibly against the Hawks Monday night after missing the last 18 games with a sore right Achilles). 

Brown has turned into one of the very best two-way transition players the Celtics have. He showed both in the first half as the Celtics held control most of the time. He was a plus-14 in 12 minutes of action. 

Morris connected on a 30-foot three at the buzzer that cut it to a 54-50 Celtics lead. The Celtics took 17 threes and made five. 

For a full box score and statistical recap of Sunday’s game in Detroit, click here.

With former teammates like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and coaches Larry Brown and Jim Calhoun looking on, the Pistons then held an extended, emotional halftime ceremony to retire the No. 32 of former UConn and Pistons star Richard “Rip” Hamilton. “This is surreal. This is surreal,” Hamilton said in his opening remarks.

“See what Ray Allen do? I’m going to do the same thing for you that I did for Ray Allen,” Hamilton told Calhoun as he recalled Calhoun’s message to him at UConn in 1996. Hamilton was the most outstanding player for the Huskies as UConn won their first national championship in 1999. 

Hamilton played nine seasons in Detroit and was a key part of the 2004 Pistons team that swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

James Young, a Detroit native, told CSNNE’s Abby Chin before the game that Hamilton was his role model and idol growing up. 

The Celtics opened the second half on an 8-0 run to extend to a 62-50 lead, with Thomas and Jae Crowder each drilling threes. The Celtics eventually built their lead to 15, 67-52, on a pull-up three from Isaiah Thomas. That three gave Thomas 21 points, extending his franchise record of games with at least 20 points to 43. 

Thomas’ fourth three ended Detroit’s 11-0 run that closed Boston’s margin to four. The Celtics were extraordinarily sloppy with the ball in the first nine minutes of the third, committing nine turnovers. But Rozier provided a big lift off the bench. He hit a three with just over two minutes left in the quarter to give Boston its tenth three of the night. The Celtics now have at least 10 threes in 17 straight games, the second-longest streak in NBA history. Houston holds the all-time record.

The Pistons, battling desperately for a playoff spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, closed to within five at the end of three, 79-74. 

With the Pistons moving into a new facility in downtown Detroit next season, Sunday marked Boston’s final regular season game ever at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Celtics fans will long have a soft spot in their hearts for the building, as they won Game 6 of the Eastern Finals there in 2008, on their way to their 17th NBA title. 

In addition to Bradley, Gerald Green missed his second straight game with a heel injury. 

The Celtics get right back to action on Monday when they host the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. 

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