Seven games remain on the Boston Celtics' regular season slate. How many of those games they actually complete is anyone's guess.
Coming off yet another head-scratching loss on Friday night in Atlanta in which the C's took the fourth quarter off, Boston looks to get some momentum back with an early evening tilt against the visiting Detroit Pistons Sunday night at 6 p.m. EDT (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
The 88-83 loss to the Hawks was not only marked by the somnambulant final frame (the Celts have been outscored 152-113 in the fourth over their last six games) but by the C's getting hammered on the boards.
Atlanta outrebounded the Celts 52-38, 14-3 on the offensive glass, making the absence of big men Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy and Shaquille O'Neal even more apparent. The Celts are 29th in the league in rebounding, averaging 38.9 per game. Luckily for them, the Pistons (26-49) are 30th in that department, at 38.4.
Friday night's loss dropped the Celts to third place overall in the Eastern Conference at 52-23. Headed into Sunday's action, they sit a half game behind second place Miami and three and half behind first place Chicago.
They play two games on the road this week against the Bulls and the Heat, but first have a quick, two-game homestand that begins with the matchup against the Pistons, in danger of losing 50 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in 16 years, and who Boston has beaten twice in three previous meetings this season.
Paul Pierce has taken advantage of Detroit in those three games, averaging 25.3 points on 61.3 percent shooting. The Celtics need to get Ray Allen more involved in the offense, not just against the Pistons, (11.7 points per game this year), but in general. As the C's have swooned, so has Allen, who has put up just 12.7 points per game on a rough 35.6 percent shooting over his last seven.
The Celts did get some positive news on the injury front this weekend. The MRI taken on Krstic's injured left knee showed nothing but a bone bruise, making him day-to-day. And Sunday night could well mark the long-awaited return of Shaq, out since Feb. 1, with a strained Achilles tendon.
Along with Jermaine O'Neal, who came back on Thursday night after a 36-game absence, the returns of Shaq and Krstic will augment the Celts battered front line in a major way.
The Celtics have lost their last two home games, the first time all season they've dropped back-to-back contests at TD Garden, but the Pistons have lost nine straight on the road.