Celtics notebook: Jayson Tatum gets last laugh after friendly trash talk, blowout wins come in bunches

DETROIT — In what has been a solid recent development for the Celtics, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weren’t playing their best games, but the team built a huge lead. Part of that is because the Pistons are one of the worst teams in the league, but Tatum and Brown didn’t need to fill out the scoresheet on Friday.

But still, no one wants to let missed shots pile up. It was Tatum in the first half, who had just five points on a 2-for-8 shot.

Then the 23-year-old was nudged in the right direction in the form of ally-turned-enemy. Pistons assistant Jerome Allen, who was with the Celtics from 2015-21, spoke trash to Tatum early in the third quarter.

“He said I only had five points,” Tatum said after the game. “And he was like, ‘Yo, you might as well put on a coach’s polo shirt tonight.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I got something for you.’

The banter came with the Celtics already up 46-31 against the rebuilding Pistons. But Allen, always talkative, wanted to say a few words.

Not the best idea: Tatum went All-Star in the third quarter. He scored 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 6 on 3-pointers. While Tatum has had a few goal bursts this season — like the 50-piece against the Wizards — he was on fire in the third.

Of course, no love lost between Tatum and Allen, or as the Celtics called him, “Pooh.” Tatum added that Allen was always talking trash even when he was in Boston, so he expected that to come into Friday’s game.

“Pooh was here my first four years and it’s like family,” Tatum said. “So we obviously miss him – especially the guys who built a relationship with him. But we were happy to beat him because we wouldn’t have heard about it if we lost.

Tatum’s outburst didn’t just come as part of a ho-hum blowout. The Celtics beat the Pistons 102-93 Friday at Little Caesars Arena. The score ended as a single-digit game, but it wasn’t that close for the majority of the game.

The Pistons had just 31 points in the first half, but they came out of the half with offensive flow. They scored 15 points in the first five minutes of the quarter, reducing it to an 11-point game. Boston coach Ime Udoka said the players knew what their mistakes were, quickly corrected them and let Tatum cook.

The final score was only close because the third string players were getting beaten in the burst minutes. When Udoka unleashed his bench with just over four minutes on the clock, it was a 22-point advantage.

“I wasn’t too worried,” Tatum said of needing to return. “But he got to a seven point game with 50 seconds left, crazier things happened. But we got it and it’s a great way to start the road trip. Go to Orlando, enjoy the hot weather and get ready for the Magic.

Tatum finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, only adapting for 28 minutes. Brown finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, despite shooting 5 for 15 from the field, cooling off after a hot start.

Even with Tatum’s stellar third quarter, it was a below-average game for the Celtics’ two stars. But Boston didn’t need its best players to lead the way every game. The depth raised and lowered the Pistons without much resistance other than a few pushes.

“Jayson ran, got going in the third quarter, and other guys stepped up, like you’ve seen in the last few games,” Udoka said. “When you look at the scoresheet and you see a lot of double-digit guys, obviously you’re in a good place without them. Getting their averages basically.

The eruptions keep coming

The Celtics have won six of their last seven games – and they continue to lead teams off the field. Of those six wins, five were of the blowout variety, where the Celtics didn’t need to sweat too hard over the outcome of the game.

A lot of positives come out of it. The starters don’t need to play that many minutes. Bench players get an extra run to keep them involved and increase chemistry. Even young bench players, even if they weren’t great on Friday, get NBA minutes to help them with their development.

“It gives us a chance to make them work with different units, play them longer and rest some of our guys,” Udoka said of the blowout wins. Like I said, the ending wasn’t pretty tonight, but keeping Jayson at 28 (minutes) and the guys in the under 30s is a beneficial night.

Injury Update

The Celtics haven’t been injured recently, although there was a minor scare on Friday. Al Horford was taken off midway through the third quarter with right foot pain. But he was quickly deemed available to play.

Udoka didn’t need to send Horford back there, as the lead was huge. Horford, 35, played just 19 minutes on Friday, which doesn’t hurt to give him lighter nights for a long season.

“Something with his foot,” Udoka said. “He was watched, came back and was cleared to play, but kept him from playing with such a big lead.”

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