Through 20 games stats surrounding the Boston Celtics tell…you…something? Honestly, the water is a little murky.
Jayson Tatum’s play ranges from frustrating to elite. The entire team collectively cannot shoot wide-open shots, which in turn has an impact on the assist numbers. The transition defense was a ginormous problem early but has tightened up slightly. Factor in the injury bug that plagued the Celtics early on in the season and you could understand why Boston seemingly has not found its footing yet.
“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves [on how good the Celtics are],” said NESN’s Alexandra Francisco on this week’s Celtics Beat. “You can really use numbers to prove whatever you want.”
However, after 20 games I think it’s safe to say the Celtics are a good defensive team, and the numbers back that up.
So far this season Boston is a top-10 defense in points per game (105.5 points allowed). Opponents are shooting 43.5% from the field and 33.4% from three-point range, which are both top-10 marks.
Individually, the C’s sport some of the top defenders at their respective positions. Marcus Smart is one of the most versatile defenders in the league. This season he grades out at the best wing-stopper in the league. A clip of Jaylen Brown went viral after the Sixers game Wednesday because of Brown’s defense against Joel Embiid. Moreover, fast-foward to the end of that game and watch Al Horford and Rob Williams stifle ball-handlers on the perimeter to secure a Boston victory.
At this point, Ime Udoka should lean into his team’s defensive identity. Who cares about points in 2021? The Celtics should be all about defense and take pride in being the best defensive team in the NBA (they’re close). You don’t need Tatum to score 30-40 points a night, plus someone else chipping in, when you are limiting the opposition to under 100 (which is Udoka’s preferred mark).
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