BOSTON (AP)The Celtics got back their offensive and defensive spark plugs. Together, they gave Boston the jolt it needed to head into the All-Star break on track to accomplish all its goals this season.
Jayson Tatum scored 38 points, including 24 in the third quarter, and the Celtics rolled to a 127-109 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
Malcolm Brogdon had 25 points off the bench, and Al Horford added 11 points and seven rebounds for Boston. Derrick White finished with 11 points and six assists.
Reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart contributed nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals in his first game back after missing nine with a sprained right ankle.
”We missed a lot,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said of Smart’s absence. ”We missed his joy. He brought a level of joy into the game.”
The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics (42-17) enter the break with five wins in their last six games. They have a one-game lead over second-place Milwaukee, which has won 11 straight and plays its final game before All-Star Weekend on Thursday at Chicago.
Tatum said he likes the way Boston is trending as it rests before trying to complete a run back to the NBA Finals in the second half.
”All things considered, everything that we’ve went through this season as a team with coaching changes and guys getting injured, missing games and being in and out of the lineup. … Overall, it’s been a hell of a start,” Tatum said.
Detroit trimmed a 19-point deficit to five late in the third quarter. But Tatum scored 24 points in the period to give the Celtics an eight-point cushion entering the fourth. Boston then got its lead back up to 19 with 4:29 to play.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 28 points and five rebounds. Isaiah Stewart added 14 points. Detroit has lost five of six.
The Celtics’ lead in the East was cut to a half-game after they lost in overtime Tuesday at Milwaukee while playing without Tatum (illness), Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), Smart and Horford (right knee swelling).
Wednesday brought the return of Smart, Tatum and Horford. White also played despite dealing with a hole in his right eardrum from a hit he took against the Bucks.
The extra personnel helped the Celtics jump out to an 18-point lead in the first half, overwhelming a Pistons team that turned the ball over nine times in the opening 24 minutes. Four of those came off steals by Smart.
Third-year big man James Wiseman finally debuted for the Pistons following the four-team trade that sent him from Golden State to Detroit. The deal was initially held up by the part that sent Gary Payton II from Portland to the Warriors after concerns arose surrounding Payton’s health following offseason surgery.
Wiseman checked in for the first time at the 3:29 mark of the first quarter, playing alongside Killian Hayes, Alec Burks, Isaiah Livers and Bogdanovic.
Wiseman finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Pistons: Outscored the Celtics 38-31 in the third quarter. . Finished with 14 turnovers, leading to 15 points for Boston.
Celtics: Robert Williams (left ankle soreness), Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), Mike Muscala (right ankle management) and Mfionda Kabengele (personal reasons) all sat out. … Boston went 21 of 45 from behind the 3-point line (47%). . Led 66-51 at halftime.
Pistons: Play at Orlando on Feb. 23.
Celtics: Play at Indiana on Feb. 23
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