Celtics get defensive


Celtics get defensive

Earlier this season, the Celtics held 29 straight opponents under 100 points. This was the longest streak in the NBA in more than five years, and the longest shot clock era streak in franchise history.

Currently, thanks to yesterday's big win over Miami, the Celtics have held nine straight opponents under the 100-point mark, which ties them with Philly for the long active streak in the league.

So, what I'm trying to say is: These Celtics can play defense.

That shouldn't come as any big surprise, since Kevin Garnett's Celtics were always known for their defense. They were synonymous with defense. But for some reason, over the last year or so, that reputation as one of the league's preeminent defensive teams has started to fade. Perhaps that's because the Celtics haven't been as efficient offensively (we much prefer to obsess over what's wrong than appreciate what's right). Maybe it's because they haven't won a title in four years. Maybe it's because Tom Thibodeau took some of that defensive identity to Chicago. Maybe it's because we all just ran out of things to say. How many different ways can you say it?

Anyway, here's just a little reminder: The Celtics can still play D!

So far this season, they're holding opponents to 89.8 points a game, which ranks third in the NBA behind Philadelphia and Chicago. But even more interesting than that?

At their current pace, the Celtics will registered their lowest opponent points per game average since 1954.

Of course, that's a little skewed, because thanks to leftover rustiness from the lockout the league scoring average is down. For instance, in 2008, the Celtics held opponents to 90.3 points a game, but the league was averaging 99.9 points a night. This year, scoring's down to 96, so holding an opponent under 90 isn't quite what it used to be.

Still, records are records and this defense is on its way to setting themselves a nice one.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”