- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce tries to get up a shot in Detroit.The Boston Celtics (20-19, 7-11 away) visit the Detroit Pistons (14-25, 10-11 home) on Sunday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* DON'T SLEEP ON DETROIT: The Pistons started the season 0-8, but are a respectable 14-17 since, that includes winning eight of their last 12 with triumphs over the likes of Miami, Milwaukee, and Atlanta during that stretch. "They've beat some good teams," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Look at who they've beat. They were struggling and then they started playing better. So, in this league, you've got to play everybody. New Orleans beat Chicago in Chicago, they beat us in Boston. This is the NBA, and I think people get caught up in records. Those guys are all really good on every team and if you don't play well, you're going to lose."
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: Former Celtics top assistant Lawrence Frank is starting to put his mark on the Pistons as the team ranks 14th in the league defensively, allowing 0.92 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Detroit ranks second in the league in defending spot-up shooting and third against cuts (two of its opponents' top four play types). Troubles lie in defending the pick-and-roll (25th) and the post (30th). Offensively, the Pistons rank 20th in the league at 0.898 points per play. Detroit is in the back half of the league in its top six play types. Individually, Andre Drummond is the team's most efficient scorer (1.018 points per play, 88th percentile), but he accounts for only 6.7 percent of the team's total plays, while Greg Monroe tops the team accounting for 16.9 percent (but averages a mere 0.864 points per play and ranks in the 41st percentile).
* CAN C'S AVOID CHAOS?: The Palace has become a house of horrors for the Celtics -- both in terms of winning there and avoiding chaos. Detroit already topped Boston 103-83 there back in November and the Celtics drew some scrutiny for playing Rajon Rondo late in the lopsided game to prolong his double-digit assist streak. Past head-shaking episodes include Glen Davis mouthing off at a harassing fan, Kevin Garnett suffering a freaky leg injury, and Rondo zipping the ball at a game official leading to a two-game suspension. Maybe it's a good thing most eyes will be focused on the Patriots and the AFC Championship game on Sunday night.
* GETTING BACK ON TRACK: Rivers admitted Wednesday's loss to the Hornets, which snapped a six-game winning streak, was a step back. But he loved his team's grit in Friday's overtime loss to the Bulls. Now he wants to see his team get back in the win column. "The step back was New Orleans, we didn't play well and we didn't come ready to play. But I thought [Friday] night was a great game in a lot of ways, because we were struggling making open shots and we stayed in there. We didn't go away. We just hung in there. It felt like we were down the entire game and then all of a sudden we had a lead. To me, that's a great sign for a team. That's not a bad sign for a team."