Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe has an interesting column on the Celtics defense. Long story short – it's awesome.
Over the last 15 games, Boston has allowed 92.9 points per 100 possessions, about 8.5 points per 100 possessions better than the league average. Over the last 10 games? That number is down to 89.1, a ridiculous 12.5 points per 100 possessions below the league’s overall average. It’s not unprecedented for an elite defense to have a 10-game stretch like this, but Boston is pushing the limits right now.
Bottom line: The Celtics’ season-long defense has been very good, but their defense over the last 15 games would qualify as historically good if they can duplicate it over the long haul. And “historically good” at least gives them a chance to be interesting in the playoffs, because the Celtics’ offense has continued to produce at a bottom-five level even during this hot streak.
There's no reason to believe the Celtics defense can't sustain this level of play. One of the team's top defenders – Mickael Pietrus – has been out for 8 games. He's coming back. Greg Stiemsma continues to improve and will hopefully get some benefit of the doubt calls in the playoffs.
The stat geeks big hang-up with the Celtics comes with the offense. But there are some signs of life:
That said, there are small signs of optimism: Boston’s new starting lineup has scored about 108.5 points per 100 possessions in 136 minutes together, a mark that would lead the league, per NBA.com. That won’t last, but the lineup is certainly interesting to watch. It depends on the big men — Garnett and Brandon Bass — to spread the floor by hanging around the elbow areas for possible open jumpers, while one non-shooting guard (Rondo) handles the ball and the other (Bradley) lurks for jumpers and cuts along the baseline. It’s almost like a reverse NBA offense, with only Pierce performing in a traditional way from “normal” spots on the floor. Boston has found a way to space the floor despite starting only one three-point shooting threat.
Allen, for his part, has a long history of lifting Boston units featuring three or four bench players, a role he will replicate for stretches now. Having Allen enter when Garnett takes his early leaves in the first and third quarters feels like a setup that should keep Boston’s offense from total collapse.
How about some credit for Doc Rivers? Hand the man the Coach of the Year award. Lowe also makes a case for Kevin Garnett winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. I suggest you read the entire column. It will make you feel better about the Celtics chances come playoff time.
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