BOSTON -- Part of the reason that the Boston Celtics have played more consistent basketball in recent weeks has been better ball security after the team appeared to have eradicated an early season turnover bug. As Courtney Lee glumly put it after Wednesday's 107-106 loss to the Detroit Pistons, "They came back around."
The Celtics committed 18 turnovers on Wednesday night, their most giveaways since a Nov. 22 loss to the Indiana Pacers and fifth highest total of the season. More distressing for coach Brad Stevens was that the turnovers led to a whopping 30 points and helped visiting Detroit rally from a 21-point first-half deficit.
The Celtics turned the ball over 11 times for 19 points in the middle frames alone and were outscored 57-39 in that span. Kris Humphries had a team-high four turnovers, but six other players had multiple giveaways on the night.
"It looked like it was just contagious," said Avery Bradley. "Everybody turned it over a little bit."
Asked if turnovers were the team's biggest problem after Boston put up 42 first-quarter points and built a 19-point lead over the first 12 minutes, coach Brad Stevens said, "Clearly. Thirty points off turnovers is not going to do you much good."
The Celtics didn't commit a single turnover over the final 10 minutes of play, which helped them make a late rally despite trailing by as many as seven points. But the damage was done.
Why did the turnover issue return?
"I think we were just forcing the issue, myself included, and trying to make the play that wasn’t there instead of just taking the shot," said Jeff Green. "You learn from it."
Celtics' opponents average 17.5 points per game off turnovers, the 11th highest total in the league. Boston also ranks 26th in the league with a team turnover percentage of 16.9 percent, but has actually driven that number down from a rough start to the season.
The return of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in 2014 should aid much of Boston's ball-handling woes.
A few more notes from the Pistons' win at TD Garden:
TIP YOUR CAP: Brandon Jennings finished with 28 points and 14 assists, accounting for more than half of Detroit's total offense while generating 58 total points off his scoring and helpers. Jennings also hit the key 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining. Bradley played excellent defense on the play, denying Jennings when he first drove, but he simply reset behind the arc, got a sliver of space, and hit the pivotal triple. Asked about Jennings' night, a prideful Bradley said, "He was just able to make some tough shots tonight." Echoed Courtney Lee: "We shrugged our shoulders at a lot of those shots."
TO LEE OR NOT TO LEE: Stevens said he wrestled with the decision of whether to keep hot-handed Lee in the game in the fourth quarter or go back to Bradley for a defensive infusion. "The hardest decision of the day for me was whether or not to bring Avery back in for Courtney, because Courtney was kinda rolling," said Stevens. "I just felt like Avery could potentially change the game for us defensively because it was going in the other direction. ... Courtney is a really good defender, too, but usually guards off the ball, and the guy that was hurting us the most was the guy with it (Jennings). That wasn’t an easy call, but I thought Avery did a really good job on him. We got stops at the very end, by then it was too late." Lee finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting over 17:51. The trade rumors swirling about a potential swap that would send him to Houston clearly didn't bother him on this night.
A LITTLE TOO COMFORTABLE: The Celtics scored a season-high 42 first-quarter points and led by as much as 21 early in the second quarter. As well as they played the first 14 minutes of the game, the last 34 were at the opposite end of the spectrum. Did the Celtics get too comfortable? "I totally agree with that," said Jared Sullinger. "We got too comfortable and we got casual with the ball. That’s when we’re supposed to tighten up the most. At the start of the third quarter, we always start off slow. We’ve got to stop doing that as a unit. That’s everybody. We’ve just got to turn it up to another level if we want to win these games that we should win."