Every NBA team has inherent strengths and weaknesses. The Boston Celtics are no different. Brad Stevens’ team is currently occupying the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 42-19 record.
At this point in the season, it is safe to assume that the Celtics are going to make the playoffs. In order to win a championship, however, the Celtics must rely on its biggest strength: Team defense.
Before continuing, a small explanation is needed for all the die-hard Kyrie Irving fans.
Kyrie is without a doubt an incredible offensive force, a walking bucket. There are very few players in the NBA that can do what Kyrie does night in and night out with a basketball. In the clutch moment of a game, Kyrie will take and, a lot of the time, make an amazing step-back jump shot or layup which nobody knows how it went in. Nevertheless, defense is more vital to the Celtics finding playoff success than Kyrie’s scoring.
The Celtics are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The stats support this. Per NBA.com, the Celtics are first in defensive rating at 101.0. Boston is also first in opponent’s field goal percentage, second in opponent’s three-point field goal percentage and sixth in opponent’s points off turnovers.
Brad Steven’s defensive scheme and the current player personnel can give offenses serious trouble. Back in November, the Celtics held the, defending NBA champion, Golden State Warriors to just 88 points.
Boston’s tenacious defense starts and ends with its bull dog: Marcus Smart. Smart is the definitive defensive anchor for the Celtics, guarding all five positions at times. Smart’s impact on the Celtics cannot be measured through stats but instead through diving on the ground for a loose ball, boxing out a bigger defender or sacrificing his body for an offensive foul, just ask James Harden.
Since returning from injury, the Celtics are 2-0 with Smart in the rotation.
Younger counterparts Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are also pivotal out on the wing with their length, athleticism and versatility. Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Greg Monroe do a good collective job protecting the basket and grabbing defensive rebounds. Even Kyrie Irving has picked up his defensive intensity this season.
Another part of the Celtics success on the defensive end comes from Brad Stevens. Already recognized as one of the best, young coaches in the NBA, Stevens’ ability to create defensive game plans is on par with other elite coaches. Stevens has created a defense suitable for a young and, relatively, inexperienced team to flourish in. Credit is given where credit is due.
If the Celtics have any hope at making the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals, their defense will have to be on lock-down mode. The adage that defense wins championships has validity to it. In order to win games, The Celtics cannot allow their opponents to score easily, especially in the playoffs against Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo or John wall.
Boston will have an incredibly tough time advancing in the Eastern Conference without stellar communication and team defense.