Al Horford was obviously huge in this game, but Jae Crowder should be this team’s captain. The Celtics lose a lot of their identity when he isn’t in the lineup. Tonight things just seemed right. The team played really well, but they were clearly working out some kinks as the night went on.

This was a close contest, and there were a bunch of lead changes, include several in the final few minutes. Let’s run through some of the good things, and some of the bad things from tonight’s game.

UP

It’s just easier with Al

Image Credit: Getty Images

Photo by: Chris Schwegler

Horford lead all player with a 17 in the plus/minus column, and you could tell. Horford was the only player in this game that broke positive double digits in the plus/minus stat. He also scored the last bucket of the game, with major credit going to Smart for the hustle to make Horford’s shot a possibility. Then, the Celtics sorely missed big man ended the game with a block on the potentially game tying shot, as time expired.

Even without those final two possessions, Horford had a great game. The Celtics haven’t really had a quality big on their roster since KG left. Even then, KG was starting to slow down. It is so nice having a quality big man on the roster, who is always a presence on the floor.

Smart doesn’t need to score to have a positive impact

This was a great game to use the argument that Smart is a big-time player regardless of whether or not he scores. Smart was 1 for 9 shooting, 0 for 5 from three, and didn’t get to line once. Yet, Stevens opts to have him in on the potential final possession of a tied game. And, Smart show us why he has earned Stevens’ trust. He flies in from the three point line and takes a sure rebound away from Detroit, tries to throw up a shot, and Horford cleans up the miss and scores the game winner.

Smart also had 7 rebounds, including 2 offensive rebounds. He dished out 3 assists, blocked two shots, and didn’t turn the ball over once. He also looked like he may have landed on the bruised ankle he was playing with. Not really sure what happened at the end there, but hopefully it was just a little pain.

The Celtics have won four of their last six games

The Celtics have been all over the place this season. Offensively, defensively, transition game, rebounding, and of course health. Still, they have managed to pull out some wins amidst all the turmoil. Their schedule leading into early December has them playing against a lot of teams towards the bottom of the NBA standings. There are no guaranteed wins in the NBA, but it should give the Celtics a chance to settle in.

DOWN

Four of Detroit’s starting five scored at a very high rate

Between Morris, Harris, Drummond, and Smith they shot 53. 4% from the field. It’s actually kind of amazing that Detroit shot 43% as a team, with those four playing so well. Still, the Celtics struggled to figure out a way to stop Detroit’s starters.

The Celtics still might need a fifth starter

Amir Johnson has a rough game tonight. He can be a great energy guy from decent stretches throughout the season, but he can’t seem to carry that energy night in and night out. Maybe he just needs more time reintegrating with Crowder, but he a was not a positive player for the Celtics tonight. Olynyk had a couple nice shots, but he struggled at times as well. I don’t think he fully trusts his shoulder yet, but he needs to be more aggressive with his jump-shot. Jerebko probably had the best night of the bench bigs, but that happens a lot when players play against their former teams. Zeller only got in four minutes tonight, and Mickey didn’t play a second.

Each one of those guys is capable of having a great impact on a game every now and again, but none of them have been able to consistently be productive. There is a very remote chance that any trades or acquisition take place over the next month. So, these guys will have opportunities to step up. But, Danny should have a series of plans to try to further solidify this Celtics starting unit.

The Celtics continue to struggle offensively for long stretches

This is starting to become a major theme this season. The Celtics do good work, build a lead, then watch it fade as they struggle to score for 6-8 minute stretches. Tonight wasn’t quite as bad because they actually got a lot of open shots during their struggling stretch. If you get an open shot and your a shooter, you shoot the ball.coach Stevens has had rough starts to games, where he tells his guys to keep doing what their doing and eventually the ball will go in. Tonight, it just wasn’t going in for a long stretch.