NBA

Pistons more concerned with stopping Boston G Thomas

BOSTON -- Amid reports and denials that Detroit is about to deal Reggie Jackson to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Pistons have more concerns as they visit the Boston Celtics Monday night.

Namely Isaiah Thomas.

Boston's little big man remains on fire and the Celtics have followed a three-game losing streak with three straight wins; after finishing four games in five nights with an overtime victory at Milwaukee Saturday night.

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The same night, Stan Van Gundy's Pistons were losing in Miami - and Van Gundy said earlier in the day his star guard isn't going anywhere; and that Ricky Rubio isn't coming to Detroit as part of a big deal.

"I texted Reggie and just said, 'This is crazy season, and we're not trading you for Ricky Rubio,'" said Van Gundy, who confirmed discussions had taken place. "That was it. I don't normally address it, but the fact that it was out there and it concerned his agent (Aaron Mintz) enough to call, I addressed it."

Jackson has averaged 17.2 points and 5.5 assists per game since returning his left knee injury Dec. 4. The Pistons are 10-16 since his return and Jackson scored 24 points in Saturday's 116-103 loss.

Thomas certainly isn't going anywhere -- unless you consider his steady scoring climb.

He had 37 at Milwaukee and has averaged 31.6 points per game in 22 games since coming back from a groin injury. He has scored at least 20 points in all but one game this season (he had 18 in that one) and his 31 straight games has him within reach of John Havlicek's club record of 40, set in the early seventies.

The Celtics have gone 22-9 in those 31 games.

Thomas is averaging 29.1 points per game overall, second only to Russell Westbrook. He leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring and, in another sign he doesn't tire, he has averaged, 34.2 points and 5.6 assists in the 11 back ends of back-to-back sets and his team is 8-3 in those games.

Monday, he gets to play after a day off, as the Celtics (29-18) play their fifth in seven nights and open a four-game homestand over eight days this week.

"I work, man. I work all summer to prepare myself to be able to outlast the next guy," Thomas said Saturday. "So I just have to keep going and show my opponent that I'm not tired."

The Celtics, who have also been in trade rumors regarding Carmelo Anthony and whether they might be a third team involved in a trade that would send Anthony to the Los Angeles Clippers - won Friday and Saturday without starters Al Horford (groin) and Avery Bradley (Achilles). Their status for Monday was not available.

Thomas totaled 51 points and 12 assists in two meetings with the Pistons this season. He scored 24 in a 94-92 win at Detroit Nov. 19 and finished with 27 in a 121-114 home loss on Nov. 30.

Detroit played both of those games without Jackson, a former Boston College star.

Jackson, has averaged 16.2 points per game in 12 career games against the Celtics, which ranks right up with his numbers against any NBA team.

Jackson and his team continued their fourth-quarter struggles at Saturday. Detroit was outscored 26-12 and shot 30 percent in the fourth quarter Saturday.

"We gotta find better stuff down the stretch," Van Gundy said. "We've been really heavily dependent on Reggie's pick-and-rolls down the stretch. That was a great formula last year. I don't know if defenses have us figured out or what, but we're just not making plays in that so we gotta do different stuff."

Last year, Jackson was the best at crunch time. This year, it has been Thomas.

The Pistons opened the season as the No. 2 defensive team in the league in the first 27 games. They have been 28th in the 20 games since.