Boston Celtics: Improved Defense Pacing Team Early


The NBA season isn’t quite a month old, but the Boston Celtics (5-4) are out to prove that last season’s post All-Star defensive effort wasn’t just a fluke.

Heading into tonight’s match-up against the Houston Rockets (4-6), the Celtics are currently ranked fifth in opponent’s points, allowing only an average of 96 points per game. That’s a significant jump from the 101 PPG allowed last season, a number that was even higher before the All-Star break.

One reason for their vast improvement is that the Celtics are leading the NBA in steals, averaging 11.3 per game. The main culprit of thefts on the team is Jae Crowder himself, who is averaging 3.1 per contest. Crowder provides versatility on the court, defending anyone from a guard to center, and can often be seen locking down the other team’s top scorer.

This is not to say Crowder is the only one stepping up on the defensive end of the floor for the Celtics. Six players are averaging at least one steal, led by Marcus Smart. Smart is raking in 1.5 steals per game and has really stepped up his game here in his second season.

In nine games, opponents have scored 100 or more points only three times this season. All of these games have resulted in losses. The Indiana Pacers have done it twice, scoring 100 and 102 in these games. The Toronto Raptors scored 113 versus the Celtics in the second game of the season.

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The Celtics are doing much more than simply creating steals. They are also ranked fifth in opponent’s field goal percentage, holding teams to shooting 42.2% from the field, including a 2-17 performance by the Thunder in Boston’s 100-85 victory on Sunday.

Part of the early defensive success for the Celtics also stretches to the interior of the floor. While certain players are struggling (see: Zeller, Tyler and Lee, David), others have stepped up their game. Jared Sullinger had 15 rebounds and 4 steals against the Thunder and is even averaging a blocked shot per game. As a team, the Celtics are averaging 5.3 blocked shots per game.

Newcomer Amir Johnson has 11 blocked shots in helping to stabilize the middle of the paint. And of course, the marked improvement of Kelly Olynyk has already been discussed.

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It will be this type of continued team effort on the defensive side that will help determine how far the Celtics go this year. While they are only one game above .500, the offense is finally starting to find a team rhythm. Combined with the grand theft mentality on defense, the Celtics will definitely be a team to be reckoned with as the season grows on.