Boston Celtics: Player Grades from puzzling loss to the Detroit Pistons

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 01: Daniel Theis #27 of the Boston Celtics walks off the court after the Detroit Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics 96-93 at Little Caesars Arena on January 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 01: Daniel Theis #27 of the Boston Celtics walks off the court after the Detroit Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics 96-93 at Little Caesars Arena on January 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics are 0-1 in 2021, thanks to a puzzling loss against the Blake Griffin-less Detroit Pistons. Hungry for a win, the Pistons entered this game with an 0-4 record as they caught the Cs sleeping early on.

In a loss reminiscent of a procrastinated final paper with a rushed ending, within seven minutes into the game, the Boston Celtics had more turnovers than points.

The first half was dominated by Jeremi Grant as the Pistons got help from Saddiq Bey and Svi Mykhailiuk shooting, improbable Josh Jackson running floaters, and Mason Plumlee scooping up almost every conceivable crunch time rebound.

Sure, the Cs didn’t get the bounces, and Detroit made many unsustainable shots.

Still, on paper, this game should have resembled something similar to their previous 126-107 routing of the Memphis Grizzlies. Boston finally took a small lead early in the fourth quarter, only to have it wash away in crunch time as they failed to score from the 4:15 mark onward.

In a disappointing loss to a mediocre Eastern Conference team, the Houdini still has it’s grades to issue out from Friday’s game.

Jaylen Brown: B

Tied for sixth in league scoring, Jaylen Brown had another aggressive outing despite a rocky shooting night from beyond the arc as he finished with 25 points on an impressive 62.5 percent true shooting percentage.

Living in the short midrange, he also had several well-timed takes to the basket with up fakes for days.

From a basketball aesthetics standpoint, seeing Jaylen Brown throw one-arm, 30-foot passes to the corner is a real delight. Unfortentually, tonight, these passes didn’t result in assists but this a great sign moving forward as Brown begins his campaign for yet another Most Improved Player of the Year nomination.

Brown didn’t get to the line once in 38 minutes in a rare occurrence, as I’d expect this number to change for their rematch. He also struggled with four turnovers on the night, two of which came from merely losing the ball and one which came from a ludicrous Trae Young-style offensive foul; Brown made winning plays and looked faster and more controlled in transition.

He followed the play on fastbreaks, came up with a sneaky chase-down block on a casual Jeremi Grant layup, and snatched nine rebounds in the process.

While Brown came up just short on a high-quality look off of a well-executed Grant Williams handoff to tie the game, all in all, this was another stellar outing.

Needless to say, the standard for Jaylen Brown has shifted from elite role player to promising and actual two-way star.

Jayson Tatum: B-

In typical Jayson Tatum form, it took a while for him to get going. He only scored seven of his 28 points in the first half but came out of halftime with a 14-point third quarter.

While he led the team in scoring, it took 24 shots to get 28 of his points. With an increased role initiating the offense, Tatum also had three turnovers, two of which came on sloppy passes out of pick-and-rolls.

Yes, he got to the line a team-high five times, but Tatum still seems to make life harder for himself on the offensive side of the floor. While he commands so much attention, and at times a hard double team as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, it would still be nice for him to take more looks at the rim rather than rely on his usual diet of tough, stop-on-a-dime, midrange fall aways.

Tatum was his usual self on defense. He mucked up passing lanes with his on-point off-ball defense and only committed a single foul in 37 minutes of play.

The Boston Celtics have another opportunity to beat the Pistons on January 3rd, as I’d expect Tatum to come out of the gates aggressive for this game.

Marcus Smart: B-

Coming into tonight’s game, Marcus Smart was shooting 43 percent from three-point range, yet I bet you could still find some people that say he’s the league’s worst shooter.

Let’s stop putting this six-year-old label on the man.

Marcus Smart can shoot. Yes, sometimes it’s streaky, and yes, sometimes it’s streaky bad, sometimes it’s streaky good but, remember folks, this man currently holds the C’s record for most 3s made in a game.

Let us stop this slander and respect his work ethic.

That said, Smart shot an abysmal 35 percent from the field.

While he went 3-6 from deep and dished out nine assists, he threw up a bunch of tough shots at the rim, perhaps expecting a whistle when the whistle was not there.

Three of his four turnovers came from bad third-quarter passes, two of which could have led to easy looks at the rim. Despite these issues at the rim and decision making off the pass, he gave the typical Marcus Smart effort on defense with three almost identical on-ball Kirk Hinrich, hounding the ball handler type steals.

Tristan Thompson: C

Mason Plumlee finished the night with five offensive rebounds, all of which came in the fourth quarter, and the majority of them came against first-year member of the Boston Celtics, Tristan Thompson.

While Thompson played stout post defense and finished the night with two blocks, he missed some blatant late-game box-outs, which led to many second efforts from the Pistons.

On offense, Thompson was quiet on the night with only five points on four attempts from the field, and while he looked great on his first bucket running alongside Jaylen Brown in transition, I was surprised that he wasn’t more aggressive when hunting mismatches in the post.

While he collected nine rebounds on the night, this was an atypical performance from the former NBA-Champ, as I’d expect a bounceback game given these late-game rebounding gaffs.

Daniel Theis: C

Daniel Theis, Tayshaun Prince… Daniel Price, Tayshaun Theis?

I am not sure which of those two permutations sounds better, but Daniel Theis came up with an exciting point saving, Tayshaun Prince style block. Theis finished the night with three blocks as he gave up his body on several plays throughout this game.

Yes, the German Hammer ended up on the other side of a poster with his missed block attempt on Jerami Grant, but Theis was at least willing to make an effort when contesting this thunderous slam.

In still a puzzling arrangement of this current starting lineup, the Pistons went small by starting Jeremi Grant at the power-forward spot. Theis still seems out of place playing solely on the perimeter, as I’d expect the Boston Celtics to change this up with a more malleable stretch four in the starting lineup.

As the model team player, Theis didn’t need to score to be effective, but overall the lack of spacing on this starting lineup desperately needs to be addressed moving forward. We need more Theis screen assists, which doesn’t happen with another big clogging the lane.

Jeff Teague: B+

Jeff Teague returned to his opening night self with 12 points on 80 percent shooting, three assists, and two steals.

He was also the only member of the Boston Celtics off the bench to get to the free-throw line, as he helped close out the middle portion of the fourth quarter. Even though I’ve seen Teague on the other side of the ball, I’ve been very impressed with his patience and cadence as the primary ball-handler of this second unit.

His veteran presence is duly noted.

After a late-December dry spell, Teague should be in the conversion for a minutes bump as he’s the only player on this bench rotation to have more than three years of NBA experience — crazy, right!?

Perhaps in the unfortunate event that Payton Pritchard regresses to the mean, a healthy diet of Jeff Teague is this team’s only option.

Grant Williams: B+

Let’s put the four fouls and missed late-game corner three-pointers aside and look at the positives, shall we?

Grant Williams, per usual, came into this game with unmatched energy and incredible attention to detail. Those watching the next Boston Celtics game, please pay close attention to Grant Williams off the ball and the number of well-timed rotations he constantly makes.

As perhaps the quickest earner of Brad Stevens’s trust outside of Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams closed out the fourth quarter and was on the floor when it mattered.

On offense, Williams seems more willing to drive to the basket off the catch.

He finished the night with eight points on 57 percent shooting paired with five rebounds in 19 minutes. Williams presents himself as, in my opinion, the most qualified candidate to jump into the starting lineup.

Yes, this may create even more of a log-jam at the center spot, but six games in, this move is necessary.

Robert Williams: B* (left game with injury)

A knee-to-knee collision with Derrick Rose prompted an earlier than expected exit for Williams, but overall his impact was felt on the defensive side of the floor.

In the bubble, issues about his conditioning were something that posed an important question: is he a long-haul center deserving of extended minutes?

So far, through six games, I believe he’s worthy of such minutes. Throughout this game, even on possessions where he didn’t get the ball, Willaims ran the floor with effort and intent as this is something Cs fans should be pleased to see.

Even though he posted a zero in the assist column, Twitter and Celtics Nation has now unveiled Robert Williams, the passer.

This will be a fun wrinkle to watch him develop as the era of big men who can pass is somewhat of a niche but a desired skill — think Jokic and Bam.

Payton Pritchard: C+

Rookie point guard for the Boston Celtics, Payton Pritchard (aka P-Rabbit), struggled on the night both handling the ball and with his shot.

He had two careless first-quarter passes that resulted in turnovers and failed to convert his three looks beyond the arc. He finished with two steals and applied his usual dogged on-ball pressure, as he remains the majority shareholder of Brad Stevens’ trust given his two-way prowess.

The shots will fall as Pritchard has set himself a high bar through these first six games.

Semi Ojeleye: B

I will keep it short with Semi Ojeleye, given the fact that he only played six filler minutes on the night and failed to accumulate the traditional metrics by which we measure a player’s impact.

Again, the conventional box score gave him an empty canvas night, but he picked up a key, early fourth-quarter charge call on Derrick Rose, which spurned a critical momentum shift

Ojeleye has bounced around the rotation through these first six games, as his role thus far is very much in flux. I’d like to see the Boston Celtics give him more minutes.