Heading into this season the concern for the Boston Celtics was their offense. After losing the all-time three-point shooter, Ray Allen this summer, the C’s added perimeter scorers Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. But it’s not their offense. It’s their defense that has them that out to a slow start.
Last year the Celtics were one of the best defensive teams in the league. They led the NBA in defensive field goal percentage at .419 and were second in the league in points against per game at 89.3. Last year it was their defense that helped them make a second half resurgence and nearly upset the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the first month of this season, however, the Celtics have allowed teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons to get easy-bucket after easy-bucket, all three scoring over 100 points against them. Allowing that many points to the Heat and the San Antonio Spurs can be excused, but the Pistons? This year they are allowing 99.3 points per game as their defensive field goal percentage is .463.
“We just have to learn, continue to learn and build,” said Celtics’ forward Paul Pierce. “We’ve given up 100 points the last couple of games. That’s definitely not our identity.”
So why are the C’s struggling? Coach Doc Rivers has always prided himself on his team’s defense, and their tenacity on that side of the floor. But Doc doesn’t believe it’s because of a lack of hustle or mental toughness, they are simply not playing smart enough.
“I think we’ve got to do our coverages better, just bottom line,” said Rivers. “Playing harder and all that, that sounds great. That’s what everyone says when you lose, ‘You’ve got to play harder.’ Well, we’ve got to play smarter, we have to know our coverages better, and when that happens everybody is on the same page and it allows our rotations to be freer, it allows our bigs to get back to the paint. So I thought it was a lot of that.”
They better be on the same page tonight because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are in town. The 9-3 Oklahoma City Thunder will give the Celtics’ defense a lot to defend. Durant is coming off a Wednesday night performance in which he scored 35 points in a 117-111 overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers.