Although it’s been a primarily up and down season(mostly down) for the Boston Celtics they’ve been able to hold one thing constant through most of it, Their Defense. Defense, which has been their calling card for most of the Big 3 era, has kept them afloat amisdt a very difficult and injury plagued season. It all started in 2008 with defensive genius Tom Thibodeau installing his signature defensive philosphies and Kevin Garnett instilling his intensity on to the defensive end. While Thibodeau has since left, the defense remains stout and one of the best in the league thanks to the continued leadership of Kevin Garnett and an up and coming defensive ace.
When trying to build a defensive juggernaut one of the first things you have to target is the 3pt line. Every coach in the league knows that if you can take away the 3pt shot you really bolster your chances of winning. It’s really a simple defensive philosphy that every elite defense follows. As of right now the Celtics only allow their opponents to shoot 33.5% from the 3pt line, a mark that has them 2nd in the league behind the Indiana Pacers. They are and always have been an excellent team at rotating to open shooters to stymie their looks. Their 3pt shooting defense is even more impressive when we narrow the sample size from January 2nd(Avery Bradley’s first game) up until today. Since January 2nd the Celtics have only allowed 31% shooting from deep which leads the league. They also excel in taking away the corner three(one of the most efficient shots in the game) as they rank 3rd in the league allowing opponents to shoot 34.5%.
Leading this stout defense since the inception of the Big 3 is Kevin Garnett. Throughout his career he’s been known for his excellent versatility and leadership. Helping change the culture into a defensive first minded team in 2008. Garnett has been one the leagues most reliable defenders in that time posting defensive ratings of 94(07-08),98(08-09),101(09-10 year after season ending surgery), 95(10-11), 94(11-12) ,99(12-13). Now while he’s not a Serge Ibaka like shot blocker anymore he still has a tremendous impact on a defense using his communication. That communication lets guys know where cutters, where picks are coming from and etc. Also he is still a fantastic post defender who can still use his length to alter shots as shown in the videos below.
While leadership is great and all, every team needs a great perimeter defender. Someone who can go out on an elite wing and slow him down, Avery Bradley is exactly that guy. He is the personification of toughness which is evident by his nickname “Zero Tolerance”. His defensive presence seemed to have a huge ripple effect on the team. In the 31 games before Avery’s return the Celtics were 14-17 with a 102.1 defenisve rating and a -2 net rating. Since then the Celtics boast a 25-20 record with a 98.7 defensive rating(3rd in the league in that span) and +2.4 net rating. Avery’s ability to go out a pressure full court is a huge advantage for this squad, the pressure defense allows the defense to set up and it takes precious seconds off of the shot clock. He’s one of the few defenders in the league who making watching defense fun and his defense is also a testament to hard it is to be a standout perimeter defender. Guys like Avery are constantly getting screened in the backcourt and running into 250 pound men all the time really takes it’s toll on the body. His on ball steals are such a joy to watch. He combines great length with excellent and is basically able to mug opposing ball handlers and strip the ball away. Here are some examples below.
These two guys are the main pillars for Boston’s success on the defensive side of the ball. Thanks to Avery the Celtics(According to Synergy Sport) are the leagues 2nd best isolation defense and thanks to Garnett they’re the 2nd ranked post defense. Obviously they aren’t the only ones playing defense. Paul has turned himself into a very solid defender since KG’s arrival and guys like Green and Lee have also been key in their defensive success this season. Also can’t forget the coaching staff who’ve always preached defense first.
Boston has always been a team that is going to make you adjust to their defense. They read situations perfectly and have the personnel to match their intensity. Not a lot of things have gone right this year but at least their signature defensive style remains intact.
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