Celtics’ Defense Still Getting the Job Done
Posted by Mike Salvucci on Nov 17, 2010
The Celticsâ€™ defense is in a state of transition.
The ever-useful Defensive Efficiency ranking places the Celtics at 6th in the NBA at 99.1 points allowed / opponentsâ€™ 100 possessions (HoopData.com). That seems about right. No, itâ€™s not the dominant defense that the Celtics had a few years ago. But itâ€™s still a group of smart, veteran players who understand where games are truly won and lost.
When the Big Three first arrived, the Celtics built their reputation on opponentâ€™s field goal percentage. Teams going up against the Câ€™s simply knew they would not be getting many clean looks throughout the course of the night. Not with Kevin Garnett shouting orders at people and every single player on that team making defense his first priority.
This yearâ€™s team is a little different. Yes, they are still extremely organized and generally do not make many mental mistakes. But the Celtics have just been mediocre when it comes to opponentâ€™s field goal percentage this year. Since 2007-2008, when the Câ€™s led the league in OppFG%, they have steadily declined in that category over the next two seasons, and that trend has continued through the first 10 games of this season:
2007-2008: 41.9% (1st in NBA)
2008-2009: 43.1% (1st)
2009-2010: 45.1% (8th)
2010-2011: 45.6% (15th)
Why? Itâ€™s almost impossible to ignore the age factor here. Letâ€™s be honest, with each successive year, the legs get more and more tired and it becomes difficult to close down on defenders. Paul Pierce can talk all he wants about how great it is to be completely healthy. But realistically, going up against someone like LeBron, Durant or Rudy Gay every other night is going to take its toll on him. Not to mention, I donâ€™t necessarily want this team expending every ounce of energy it has into playing super-intense defense for 82 games. So the other teams make a few more shots during the regular season. So what?
So despite this trend, and the fact that Kendrick Perkins is still out, how are the Celtics continuing to still achieve a decent amount of success on the defensive end?
Here are some possible reasons:
- You can start with KG. And Iâ€™m not merely talking about the intangibles here. Garnett has been an absolute monster on the defensive glass. He is 3rd in the league (just ahead of Dwight Howard) in Defensive Rebound Rate, pulling down 32.8% of defensive rebounds while heâ€™s on the court. When he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, that number was only 25.1%. The reenergized version of Garnett has been a treat to watch this year, and the way heâ€™s been pouncing on rebounds all season makes you feel good that he finally is completely healthy.
- Led by KG, the Celtics as a team do not allow many offensive boards, either. They also rank 3rd in the NBA at Defensive Rebound Rate at 77%. And with the way their bigs are dropping like flies these days, minimizing easy put backs is a huge factor to their success.
- Rajon Rondo.
- Then of course, thereâ€™s Big Baby. I donâ€™t know if anyone in the local sports media has mentioned this, but I heard he has taken 16 charges in 10 games. But in all seriousness, this is a big deal. The Celtics are struggling to block shots this year (Block Rate is second-to-last at 3.3). With Perkins not there to push people around, teams should theoretically have an easy time getting to the rim. But at some point (and maybe they already have), opposing players are going to think twice before they recklessly drive to the basket with Big Baby looming in the paint.
- And lastly, it probably wouldnâ€™t surprise you to know that the Celtics are dead last in Offensive Rebound Rate, because thatâ€™s generally their style. As a result, theyâ€™re only allowing 11.8 fast-break points per game. Donâ€™t crash the boards, get back on defense, and give those geriatric legs a chance to get in position.
So what do people think? Why is this year’s Celtics’ defense able to be effective, despite the fact that opponents are shooting relatively well against them?