Celtics Defense Awakens

Celtics Defense Awakens

Brad Stevens earned his 300th win last night against the Orlando Magic. It’s quite the accomplishment for such a young coach, and especially a head coach who did’t have any NBA experience before coming to Boston. What’s made Brad so successful? First, his concern and respect for everyone on his roster makes him a beloved coach. Secondly, his acute basketball mind can bring out the strengths of everyone on the team, putting them in the right positions to do their job well. Lastly, much of Brad’s success comes from his emphasis on defense. He knows if you defend the ball on one end, it’ll translate to buckets on the other.

It was no secret that there were problems with the Celtic’s defense at different times in the season, most recently standing out were the losses to Detroit, Milwaukee, and Arizona. In the words of Marcus Smart, “It takes everybody, you know, and it’s not easy. You know, coming in you’ve got a team that’s really talented. They’re coming in to play and beat you so we got to be on top of our games and we just got to understand that we’re going to have nights where we don’t shoot the ball well but we can’t have nights where we just don’t bring it on the defensive end.” However, when LeBron James and the LA Lakers came to town, something dramatically changed in the way the Celtics defended the ball. Boston had a spectacular win against LA, and a repeat performance against Memphis, which can only be attributed to the evolution of their defense.

  1. A Full 48: The Celtics didn’t let up on the defensive end at all during those two games. They played with intensity and purpose the entire game, even when a blow out was becoming evident. This is something they’ve struggled with many times throughout the season. Specifically sparking up as of late has been big man, Daniel Theis. His aggressiveness in the LA & Memphis games earned him an impressive 78.9 defensive rating. Not surprisingly, other starters and core bench players have also improved their ratings as well. That’s what happens when a team plays for the full 48 minutes.
  2. Defending the Three: Too many times this season the Celtics have allowed their opponents open, uncontested shots behind the arc, which translated into deep deficits for their offense to get them out of. This too has changed when the Lakers stepped onto the court. Boston held them to 26.9% shooting from the three point line, and the Grizzlies to 34.4%. Keeping this trend up will undoubtedly give them the upper hand for the remainder of the season and throughout the post season.
  3. Alert: An alert defense brings energy and has it’s players in the the right positions, reading the offense of their opponents. Boston capitalized on the 31 turnovers between the LA & Memphis, which is amazing. A great defensive team knows how to finish the play. Steals are awesome, turnovers are great, but if it doesn’t translate on the other end of the court, it’s an incomplete play. The Celtics scored 45 fast break points on those turnovers, furthering the argument they are a true defensive team.

Again, let’s congratulate Brad on his 300th win. He’s in great company with coaches like Red Auerbach, Tommy Heinsohn, Doc Rivers and K.C. Jones. Now as Brad keeps adding to that win number, it’s going to be because of the elite defensive play-making he draws up for his team. It appears the Celtics are on the upward path as they head into the All Star break, and we can expect to see the intensity to increase in the remainder of the season. The realization of the post season is more evident, not just in Boston, but across the league which means wins will be tougher to acquire, therefore defense must continue to be priority one.

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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