Celtics second unit establishing identity through defense

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Celtics second unit establishing identity through defense

BOSTON Establishing an identity has been one of the many challenges the Boston Celtics' second unit has had this season.

Nearing the halfway point of the season, it's clear that it is their defense that's fueling their success of late. The fact that this has indeed become their identity is surprising when you consider the C's top backups are primarily established scorers who are not considered extremely strong defenders.

Look no further than their leader Jason Terry who ranks 4th all-time in 3-pointers made (1,846).

"We found our identity," Terry said. "Our identity is on the defensive end."

The improved play of the Celtics second unit can be seen in how they have been able to dominate games recently. Boston's second unit has a margin of plus-8.8 points per game during their current five-game winning streak. Hoopsstats.com also lists the C's bench as having the highest efficiency difference (plus-23) in the last five games played.

More than anything else, the Celtics are doing a better job of contesting shots and forcing teams to get into their offense much later than they would like to.

A key to that second unit defense has been Courtney Lee who is the teams' second best on-the-ball defender behind Avery Bradley, a tandem that Doc Rivers has gone to at times that has produced really positive results.

"When you got me and Avery pressing the length of the court, there's like 10, 11 seconds on the clock by the time they make that first pass," Lee told CSNNE.com. "It's hard to get a good shot off in that little bit of time, so that's been huge for us."

And strong play defensively has opened the door for even better play by the second unit offensively.

In the last five games, the Celtics have shot 50 percent from the field on mid-range jumpers which is tops in the NBA.

Boston has also improved their scoring around the basket as the C's have made 49 percent of their shots inside the paint but not in the restricted area. That ranks fifth in the league.

"We're starting to get a little rhythm and consistency with that group," Terry said of the C's backups. "But again, that's the group that was put together from Day one and that's the group that has the most chemistry because we played together in training camp, early on in the season.

Terry added, "we're a little ahead of the curve right now. It's still a work in progress now. We still don't really have an offense when that group goes in now. But we know one thing we're going to do; we're going to defend like crazy."

Which for a group known for its shooters and void of having a lot of established defensive stoppers, is indeed impressive.

And maintaining that identity will be put to the test again tonight against a Charlotte club that has struggled most of the season, but plays with great effort.

"If we come out and play Celtics defense," Terry said, "they're going to have a tough time."

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”