By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- The Boston Celtics continue to flounder without Paul Pierce.
The Celtics will be trying to avoid their worst start in 42 years Friday night in their home opener against the Detroit Pistons in a matchup of winless teams.
Boston (0-3) last dropped its first four games in the 1969-70 season. There's no word on a possible return for Pierce, who is out with a bone bruise in his right heel and has barely practiced in preparation for this season.
While Pierce's team-high 18.9 scoring average from last season is sorely missed, the Celtics also have been awful defensively. They let New Orleans shoot 45.6 percent from the field in Wednesday's 97-78 loss, and that's the best figure allowed by Boston this season.
"I just thought we played tired," coach Doc Rivers said. "We looked old tonight."
The 2010-11 Celtics ranked third in defensive field-goal percentage (43.4) and first in scoring defense (91.1). Their marks of 49.6 and 106.0 this season are both among the league's worst.
"Our defense was terrible. Offensively we didn't execute. We looked scattered out there on the floor," guard Ray Allen said Wednesday. "That's just us and how we didn't execute on both ends of the floor and we know better."
Last season, Rivers had assistant Lawrence Frank coach the team on the defensive end. Frank, though, was hired by Detroit (0-2) for his second stint as a head coach after guiding New Jersey from 2004-09.
Frank will return to Boston searching for answers of his own after watching his team allow Cleveland to shoot 57.1 percent in a 105-89 loss Wednesday in the Pistons' home opener.
"The thing that is very disappointing is that we devoted a majority of our time on the defensive end," Frank said. "To have that type of performance was very disappointing. Offensively it is going to be a work in progress, but defensively we are just going to have to continue to build."
The Pistons could provide a tonic for the Celtics' defensive woes. Detroit is shooting 40.4 percent, with top scorer Ben Gordon at 39.4.
The players feel that the lack of time they have had to operate in Frank's system is not a reason for the ineptitude.
"That's no excuse to play bad, no matter the circumstances we still have to go out there and get stops and execute on offense," center Greg Monroe said. "Those things we're not doing consistently right now."
For Boston, point guard Rajon Rondo is averaging team highs of 22.0 points and 10.3 assists, but he's also turning the ball over 5.3 times per game. The Celtics' 18.7 turnovers per game rank among the NBA's most.
Rondo could see some time against a fellow Kentucky product in rookie Brandon Knight, who was a bright spot with 23 points and six assists Wednesday. Knight, who is coming off the bench, was the draft's No. 8 selection.
"He definitely was a good spark for us today," Monroe said. "Hopefully, he can continue to play like that."
The Celtics have won their last four home openers. They have taken 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Pistons, winning three of four last season.
Updated December 29, 2011