Boston (36-21) at Detroit (21-38)

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  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Tue Mar 2, 2010
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If Paul Pierce(notes) is healthy enough to play defense, the Boston Celtics will likely be more than happy to endure any shooting woes his sore right thumb may cause.

Struggling through defensive problems and coming off a particularly deflating loss, the Celtics expect to have Pierce back in the lineup as they visit the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.

Pierce says he’s ready to return after missing the last three games with a sprained right thumb. The veteran forward, averaging 17.9 points and 1.2 steals, participated in Boston’s practice Monday.

The Celtics (36-21) are in desperate need of the help. They lost the final two games of a three-game homestand, 108-88 against Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland on Thursday night and 104-96 versus league-worst New Jersey two days later.

Defensive breakdowns have been the main reason for Boston’s rut.

The Celtics have allowed an average of 108.0 points over their last four games. This is the first time Boston has allowed 100 points or more in four straight games since April 2007, three months before Kevin Garnett(notes) was acquired in a trade with Minnesota.

“In this league you have to get stops, it’s that simple,” Garnett said. “A team gets into a rhythm, and it’s hard to turn it off.”

The Celtics are facing a Pistons team that ranks 29th in the league in scoring with 92.4 points per game. Only the Nets have a lower average at 90.2.

Boston hopes to bounce back on the road, where it has a better record this season than on its home court. The Celtics are 20-10 away from TD Garden, winning three straight before a 114-105 loss to Denver on Feb. 21.

Detroit (21-38) is returning home after losing the final three games of a four-game trip. The Pistons have been struggling late in games, getting outscored by an average of 7.6 points in fourth quarter of their last three contests.

“We have some veteran guys on this team who have been in this position before and now we have people who make mistakes that they normally don’t,” coach John Kuester told the Pistons’ official Web site. “It’s been a dilemma of late.”

Detroit shot 43.0 percent against the league’s worst defensive team Saturday night, losing 95-88 to Golden State.

Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko(notes) didn’t return after leaving in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle, but he’s listed as probable for Tuesday. He received Eastern Conference rookie of the month honors Monday after averaging 10.2 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range in 13 February games.

Though Jerebko was limited to four points and four rebounds, Detroit beat Boston 92-86 on Jan. 20, the teams’ first matchup this season. The Pistons have won consecutive games in the series after losing the previous five.

Richard Hamilton(notes) was held to 12 points and 4-of-11 shooting for Detroit in the last matchup. He averaged 27.2 points in six games prior to a 16-point effort versus the Warriors.

Hamilton had finally begun to settle down after missing most of the season’s first two months due to an ankle injury. He’ll likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02, when he played for Washington.

“We have to get back to our winning ways,” Hamilton said of the Pistons. “It’s frustrating, but we have to do a gut check.”

Pierce had 21 points and two steals in the first meeting with Detroit.

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Tuesday, Mar 2