Celtics-Pacers review: Boston's hybrid defense major factor in win

Celtics-Pacers review: Boston's hybrid defense major factor in win
March 7, 2013, 2:15 am
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Boston Celtics continue to play a hybrid defense that combines both man and zone principles -- often on the same defensive possession.

When it comes to giving it a name, C's head coach Doc Rivers can only come up with one -- effective.

Because for the second time in as many nights, Boston's ability to mix its man coverage with zone principles -- or man principles with zone coverage depending on which side of the coin you're staring at -- has been a big part of the C's success of late and was certainly a major factor in their 83-81 win over Indiana Wednesday night.

Boston's defense in the fourth was phenomenal in limiting the Pacers to 4-for-20 shooting from the field, and scoreless for the final 4:36 of play.

"We were laughing," Rivers recalled. "Someone called it a man-zone. We were half-zone, half-man ... it was almost silly, it really was but it was really good."

Rivers added, "We went into a time-out (on Wednesday), any pick-and-roll, we're man (defensively). Any ball swing, we're zone. They (Celtics players) figured it out. We've been doing that a lot lately."

The zone defense also allows Boston to keep two of its better perimeter shooters off the bench -- Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford -- and on the floor for longer stretches even when teams decide to play a bigger lineup than the C's.

"It's really important with Jet (Terry) at the end of the game because that's the guy that they're going to try and attack," Rivers said.

But to Terry's credit, his ability to deflect passes and hold his own defensively -- along with scoring eight points and adding three assists in the fourth -- was also vital to Boston's come-from-behind win.

For Terry, Wednesday's victory only reaffirms his feelings for this team that he has not been coy about sharing from the time he arrived in town this summer.

"This (win) felt pretty good," Terry told CSNNE.com. "When you talk about resiliency, when you talk about champoinship heart and grit, this team has that. You go out, searching for an identity, you're looking, you're looking, and what I see in this team is we have fight."

That fight was instrumental in Wednesday's victory. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Indiana has the kind of size, strength and depth in the frontcourt that could cause major problems for the Celtics. Boston's ability to keep the rebounding margin relatively close will go far in their efforts at an upset road win.

WHAT WE SAW: Indiana's size gave the Celtics problems for the bulk of three quarters, most evident in the Pacers having a dominant 42-18 edge in points in the paint. But the fourth quarter was an entirely different game, as the Celtics were the aggressor and were rewarded with a slew of scoring opportunities around the basket as they outscored the Pacers 14-2 on points in the paint in the fourth.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Roy Hibbert: This may very well be the game in which the 10-day guys -- D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph -- take to the floor. Hibbert's size will wear down Garnett if the C's aren't careful, and there's no telling if Chris Wilcox will be enough against one of the bigger teams in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: This was a great contrast in styles that are both effective. Garnett's inside-outside game gave Hibbert and the entire Pacers frontline problems, as he scored 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go with 10 rebounds for his 17th double-double this season. Meanwhile, Hibbert had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. But he was a non-factor in the second half as he was scoreless while adding just two rebounds to his first half total.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul George is an all-star, but he was an all-dud the last time these two teams met in Boston on Jan. 4 when he scored 9 points on 4-for-18 shooting in the C's 94-75 win. Look for him to fare better inside the comfy confines of Conseco Fieldhouse.

WHAT WE SAW: He had 16 points but did it on 7-for-22 shooting from the field. You can't harp too much on his struggles shooting the ball, especially when you consider the job he did defensively on Paul Pierce (13 points, 4-for-15 shooting).

STAT TO TRACK: Indiana had the third-best record in the month of February (9-3), and their ability to get to the free throw line had a lot to do with that. This season, the Pacers rank 12th in the league in free throw attempts per game (22.9). But in February, they led the league in free throw attempts with 27.6 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: While Indiana was the aggressor for most of the game, it didn't necessarily reflect in a ton of trips to the free throw line. The Pacers were 11-for-14 from the line while the Celtics were 8-for-9.