Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

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Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

BOSTON The numbers don't lie -- at least not this time.
The Boston Celtics' trapping defense, much like their entire squad, has been a work in progress with various ups and downs along the way.
But it wasn't until Wednesday night's 117-115 double overtime win over Dallas did the use of the team's trap defense pay off in a big way.
And the timing of its success could not be any better as the Celtics gear up for a Texas two-step of Houston and San Antonio, who are led by talented guards James Harden and Tony Parker, respectively.
Having to deal with Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo on Wednesday served as a good tune-up for what's on tap the next couple of games for Boston's defense which will surely look to trap and double team both of those players at various points in the game.
"We just had to keep him (Mayo) in a box," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the win. "He's good. I mean, he's really good. He's strong as an ox, and he makes difficult shots."
That same description can apply to Harden, who has emerged as one of the NBA's top scorers since he was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging 25 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. Parker and his 19 points per game isn't too far behind at No. 12.
Both will have the ball in their hands a lot, similar to Mayo, who had 24 points against Boston, but also turned the ball over nine times.
"I've been talking about it a lot over the past seven games," said Rivers, referring to the C's trapping defense. "It's been paying dividends for us. It's been terrific."
It certainly was against the Mavericks, a team that averages 15.6 turnovers per game this season. They turned it over 28 times against Boston and that led to 34 points.
Yes, it's the holiday season when everyone seems to show a little more generosity than normal.
But Mayo would have much rather seen himself and his teammates be more Scrooge-like when it came to all those turnovers.
"We had 28 turnovers so that says a lot right there," Mayo said. "I take the most fault for it because I had nine."
The key to Boston's trap being successful hinges heavily on the play of the Celtics big men, who are asked to come out and trap, and then hustle back to get in position to rebound or match back up with the man they were previously guarding.
It makes for a pretty exhausting night.
"You telling me," said C's big man Kevin Garnett. "You telling me. It's nothing easy about being a big here. It's hard work; that's what it is."
It also creates some switches at times that involve Celtics big men matched up briefly with quicker, more athletic guards.
Although Brandon Bass is the C's starting power forward, he doesn't shy away from switches like some he had on Wednesday that paired him with Mavericks ultra-quick guard Darren Collison.
And to Bass' credit, he more than held his own in just about every instance.
"I was always able to switch out on guards," Bass said. "Growing up, my workout partner was a point guard. We used to play one-on-one, so I was always comfortable guarding guards here and there -- not the whole game -- but here and there. I'm able to."
And with the bigs showing an ability to hold their own on traps and still get back in position defensively, it takes some of the pressure off of Boston's guards in terms of dribble penetration.
"It's tough, but we're doing what we gotta do to get the win," Bass said.
And their work is not lost on the play of C's point guard Rajon Rondo, who is the team's first point of attack defensively while Garnett serves as the anchor.
"We're asking a lot of our bigs," Rondo said. "That's what we need."

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”