Rapid reaction: Pistons 103, Celtics 83

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Kevin Garnett gets up a shot in Sunday's game vs. the Pistons.Rapid reaction after the Detroit Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics 103-83 on Sunday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills:


Jared Sullinger paced the Celtics with 16 points and five rebounds, while Kevin Garnett added 15 points and Rajon Rondo came through with a 12-point, 10-assist double-double. Six Pistons players scored in double-figures, including Greg Monroe (20 points, 13 rebounds), Jason Maxiell (15 points, six rebounds), and Rodney Stuckey (14 points, five rebounds, five assists) off the bench. As a team, the Celtics shot 45.1 percent from the field, made only four of their 17 3-point attempts, were out-rebounded 39-30, and turned the ball over 18 times, good for 23 Piston points.


The Celtics entered the third quarter trailing 48-43 and saw themselves outscored 23-14 over the next 12 minutes. Boston shot just 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) in the third frame, continuing a trend of uninspired play that had been manifesting itself since the opening tip. The Pistons carried a 71-57 lead into the fourth quarter and kept their advantage in the mid-teens over the first six minutes. Doc Rivers elected to go small at the 7:00 mark of the final frame, but that did little to stop the Pistons from extending their lead. Though their offense picked up more than it had in the third frame, the Celtics couldn't secure the necessary stops down the stretch to make any sort of serious run and get themselves back into the game.


Though Boston didn't look particularly energized on either side of the ball Sunday, but its offense will likely come through as the bigger letdown. The Celtics didn't necessarily take bad shots Sunday -- their regulars often got their usual looks -- but it felt like they could have gotten better looks at the rim. Whether it was fatigue (more on that in a minute) or another factor, the Celtics seemed content settling for outside shots. Through the first three quarters, Boston managed just 20 points in the paint, and had already turned the ball over 15 times.


The C's played like a tired bunch all night, perhaps finally feeling the effects of playing their fourth game in five nights. Even against a struggling team like Detroit, Sunday's game was going to be one of those grind-it-out affairs for the Celtics, but they were unable to dig in and fend off a Pistons team that refused to fade when it got a sizable lead.


When it was clear victory was not an option, the Celtics focused on getting Rondo to 10 assists to continue his pursuit of John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Rondo entered the final frame with just six helpers, and it took him nearly the whole fourth quarter to reach double figures. After Boston came up empty on a handful of its final possessions, Sullinger finally knocked down a straightaway jumper with under a minute left to secure Rondo's record. He's now recorded double figures in assists in 34 straight games and is steadily closing in on Stockton's mark of 37 straight, and slowly gaining on Johnson's all-time record of 46.


Pierce landed awkwardly driving into the lane during the fourth quarter and seemed to tweak his right ankle. He retreated to the locker room early and did not return... Center Darko Milicic was not with the team while tending to a family matter, while Jason Collins, who missed Saturday's game for the same reasons, rejoined the team in Detroit.


As strange as it might seem, given the score of the game, Sullinger's jumper to secure Rondo's streak was one Boston's most important baskets. With the team flat all night, it was evident the Celtics just wanted to keep Rondo's record alive, and after Green and Terry couldn't put in baskets, Sullinger finally stepped up and canned a jumper from just above the free throw line.


The Celtics wanted to finish off this four-games-in-five-nights stretch with a victory, but they'll have to settle for a frustrating loss instead. It's clear Boston needs a day off, which they'll get on Monday, before heading back to the practice floor on Tuesday. There aren't many positives Boston can pull away from this one, so better to just rest up and move on with two of their more difficult home games of the young season approaching this week: San Antonio on Wednesday and Oklahoma City on Friday.