Pistons-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Celtics are limping toward the playoffs, and they're fully aware improvement is necessary to have any success in the postseason.

Their recent performances versus the Detroit Pistons shouldn't be used as an example.

Boston has a chance to clinch a playoff berth and will have Paul Pierce back in the lineup as it looks to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to visiting Detroit on Wednesday night.

Though season-ending injuries to Rajon Rondo (torn ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back surgery), along with the currently inflamed ankle of Kevin Garnett haven't made things easy, the Celtics (38-36) are clinging to the Eastern Conference's seventh seed, 1 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee.

While Boston can clinch a postseason berth with a win and a Philadelphia loss to Charlotte on Wednesday, it has dropped seven of nine after falling 110-100 at Minnesota on Monday.

Avery Bradley scored a team-high 19 points and said the Celtics still have a sense of urgency despite their recently disappointing results.

"We want to improve as a team every single game," Bradley said. "Paul (Pierce) and those guys let us know before every single game. When we are in the huddle, he lets us know that we need to keep taking steps forward to prepare for the playoffs."

Pierce wasn't there Monday, sitting out due to unspecified personal reasons. Coach Doc Rivers said Pierce definitely will play against the Pistons, though.

Jason Terry, who scored 14 points off the bench, was pretty vocal in Pierce's absence and said Boston is focused on going into the postseason on a high note.

"We will have plenty of time to game plan and practice. We will get there," Terry said. "There is nothing I haven't seen so I prepare for the best. The main thing is being optimistic and sticking together."

The Celtics, though, haven't been very good versus the Pistons lately, dropping the last four meetings by an average of 15.0 points. Detroit won the first two matchups this season at home, 103-83 on Nov. 18 and 103-88 on Jan. 20.

Greg Monroe combined for 35 points and 24 rebounds in those contests for the Pistons (25-50), who are winding down an otherwise disappointing campaign.

Detroit averaged just 89.4 points while dropping 13 of 14 in March before earning a 108-98 victory at Toronto on Monday, as Monroe finished with 24 points.

The Pistons shot 55.8 percent, second best only to the 58.1 percent they shot in a win over Miami on Dec. 28.

''We did a good job if withstanding their runs and responding with our own,'' Monroe said. ''Guys showed a lot of fight.''

Jose Calderon, who finished with 19 points and nine assists against his former team, said Detroit can be a dangerous team when everyone is clicking.

"When we have chemistry, when we are playing as a team, we have a lot of guys who can score the ball," Calderon said. "We were running the same play the last five or six minutes and everybody, different guys were getting shots. It was great, it was nice to see."

Detroit has allowed an average of 105.4 points over its last 11 games, though it has held Boston to 85.0 per game over the last four meetings.

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