Celtics’ Defense Propels Them To Early Season Success



Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love works his offense guarded by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart in the fourth quarter, November 5, 2019, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Niko Koley

With the Celtics’ 140-133 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, they are 9-1 in the season, making them the current No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s a strange sight to see Kyrie Irving’s Nets as the No. 8 seed in the East considering how hyped his move to Brooklyn was.

I think many NBA fans expected the Celtics to be a relatively good team without Irving thanks to new addition Kemba Walker. Though, it was expected that the Celtics would be still worse off since they lost both Al Horford and Irving.

And yet, here we are with the Celtics playing fantastically in spite of it all. Yesterday’s game showcased some of the many strengths that are helping the Celtics produce so many wins. It can’t be overstated how deadly the Celtics’ pick-and-roll game with Walker is. Against the Wizards, there were countless times when Walker exploited their defense for easy passes and shots inside. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are also playing considerably well, given their new roles as the scoring leaders of the team. It’s a good thing that the scoring is not being left to one person, with points  coming from Brown, Tatum and Walker.

A worry with the acquisition of Walker was that his size would be a hindrance on defense. But surprisingly, the Celtics’ defense has been very solid so far, with rookies and role players not only contributing consistently, but also in big ways. Clearly Brad Stevens’ coaching is also playing its part as it shows in the Celtics No. 2 offensive rating and No. 8 defensive rating in the NBA.

Looking at the playoff picture, it’s unlikely that the Celtics continue at this high level of play for the rest of the season. The Bucks will most likely overtake them atop the East in the next couple of months. Although, considering the quality and flexibility of Stevens’ coaching, that day could be getting farther away. It’s usually at the start of the season when teams that are typically poor find their hot streaks. This happened last year with the Orlando Magic when Aaron Gordon was scoring a ton of points each game. By the time December rolled around, the “magic” had cooled down.

There is no question regarding whether Boston will make the playoffs or not; the only question is how deep they can go in the playoffs. The team just does not have the experienced players that are needed to mount a deep run in the playoffs, as Eastern Conference juggernauts like the 76ers would make quick work of this Boston squad. Walker has never made it past the first round of the playoffs, and Brown and Tatum are still very raw players. If the playoffs were to happen right now, despite their early success, the Celtics likely would go down in the second round.