Celtics defense has plenty to improve on

Celtics defense has plenty to improve on
October 8, 2013, 12:00 am
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BOSTON — No one expected the Boston Celtics to be a finished product heading into their first preseason game.

And while there were certainly a number of positives the C's will take from their 97-89 preseason loss to Toronto, there were more than enough disturbing aspects of the game to keep head coach Brad Stevens up for a bit tonight reviewing the game.

"I won't be able to sleep if I don't watch it," he said.

What he will see is a Celtics defense that on far too many possessions, appeared defenseless against a Toronto team that seemed to get anywhere and everywhere they wanted, when they wanted to.

Toronto shot an impressive 52.1 percent from the field, although it probably felt to the Celtics as though they shot considerably better than that with all the lay-ups, uncontested jumpers and lob-dunks.

"Obviously 52 percent's not going to get it done, especially considering most of them felt like they were in the paint or at the rim," Stevens said.

Of Toronto's 97 points, 52 came in the paint on 26-for-45 shooting (57.8 percent). Conversely, the Celtics had 34 points in the paint on 17-for 36 shooting (47.2 percent).

While there's still plenty of time for the Celtics' defense to improve, Monday's loss is reason to be concerned.

For all the ups and downs this team has had in recent years, their ability to limit opponents to a low field goal percentage has been a constant. Since the 2007-2008 championship season, the Celtics have ranked no worst than ninth (2009-2010 season) in the NBA in field goal percentage defense. During that same span, Boston's scoring defense finished in the top-five every season except last season when they gave up 96.7 points per game which ranked 12th in the league.

Improved defense is about more than just doing a better job of contesting shots. It involves a more concerted effort to rebound collectively; force opponents to go deeper into the shot clock; and of course create more turnovers.

That latter point was one of the few areas defensively that the Celtics were successful at against the Raptors who turned the ball over 26 times which led to 26 points.

"I know it's an exhibition game but we've got to get that way down," said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey regarding his team's high turnovers. "Not just a little bit, but a lot."

Committing a low number of turnovers was one of Toronto's strengths last season. They turned the ball over 13.2 times per game which was tied with Memphis for the fourth-fewest number of miscues per game.

Stevens, like Casey, is sure to find other areas in need of improvement as he pores over the video from Monday night's loss. But there is no question that addressing the team's struggles defensively will be at the top of his to-do list going forward.

"If I start tomorrow working on one thing," Stevens said, It will be some of our stuff defensively."