The Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics both are dealing with injury woes, but they also both need to take the court for the second straight night Saturday and try to bounce back from losses when they meet at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Pistons (20-14) hope point guard Chauncey Billups will be healthy enough to return from a strained right calf injury that has forced him to sit out the previous six games. Detroit is 2-4 during his absence, dropping its second straight with a 99-93 defeat on Friday night at Atlanta.
“We’re struggling,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We’re trying to find some consistency both offensively and defensively.”
Billups, who suffered the injury in a Dec. 29 loss to Indiana, has averaged 17.4 points in 20 games against the Celtics since they traded him to Toronto in his rookie season after selecting him as the third overall pick in the 1997 draft.
The Pistons hope Billups can return to provide direction for the offense and more depth as they look to defeat Boston for the sixth straight time. Detroit has also won 10 of 11 against Boston since Nov. 5, 2003, including the Celtics’ last five visits to the Palace. Boston’s last win in Detroit came on March 15, 2003, Billups’ first season with the Pistons.
The Pistons are looking to avoid their first four-game home losing streak since an eight-game skid from Dec. 30, 2000-Feb. 2, 2001.
Detroit re-inserted Rasheed Wallace into the starting lineup Friday, and he contributed 17 points and eight rebounds. Wallace had played as a reserve in the previous two games - one for disciplinary reasons after arriving late for a practice and the other to rest his nagging sprained ankle.
“I don’t know what to tell you, honestly,” Wallace said. “We’re just taking it on the chin.”
The return of Billups would allow Flip Murray, who averaged 11.0 points while starting in his absence, to return to the bench.
The Celtics (12-23) don’t seem nearly as close to returning to full health. They dressed only nine players—missing leading scorers Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak along with Brian Scalabrine and Delonte West—in their 95-86 home loss to Toronto on Friday. The defeat dropped the Celtics to 2-9 in the 11 games Pierce has missed because of a left foot stress reaction.
Tony Allen, who had been averaging 18.9 points over his last 14 games, was lost for the season earlier this week after tearing ligaments in his knee.
Boston’s losing streak reached three games Friday despite a career-high 23 points from rookie guard Rajon Rondo.
“What we’ve got to do is just go out there and compete, play hard and try to win some games,” said 24-year-old forward Ryan Gomes, the oldest of the Celtics’ five starters on Friday. “I know we’re short-handed right now, but we’re all here to play. We want to play and guys are getting the opportunity now.”