Beyond the numbers: Celtics defense looking playoff ready

Beyond the numbers: Celtics defense looking playoff ready

There’s no getting around the Boston Celtics’ quest for the top overall seed in the East, an effort that seems to be getting a little bit of a boost courtesy of Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue’s decision to rest his core guys (LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving) at different intervals in the final weeks of the season. 

With or without home court advantage, the Celtics will have to win on the road at some point in the postseason. It’s a good thing they’ve had plenty of practice, evident by them having already clinched a winning road record – a first for the Celtics since 2011. They’ll look to add to their road success tonight against a Philadelphia team which the Celtics have beaten on the road each of the last four matchups. 

And while the Celtics have won primarily with a high-powered offense this season, their success of late has been more of the grit-and-grind, defensively-charged brand of basketball that we see often in the playoffs. 

Here are four areas in which Boston’s defense has made progress on the road of late.

DEFENSIVE RATING

For the season, Boston’s defense has been at its best away from the TD Garden, posting a defensive rating on the road of 105.9 which ranks eighth in the NBA. Since the all-star break, Boston’s defense has been even more stifling away from the Garden with a rating of 102.7 which ranks fourth in the NBA.

REBOUND PERCENTAGE

Home or away, rebounding has been a struggle for Boston most of this season. The team’s rebounding percentage on the road this season is .477 which ranks 28th in the NBA. But since the all-star break, Boston has shown significant growth in this area which is critical to their improved play defensively. Since the break, Boston’s rebounding percentage is .501 which ranks 14th in the NBA. 

OPPONENT 3-POINT PERCENTAGE

Even with the inconsistent play Boston has had defensively this season, the Celtics’ ability to contest 3’s has been a strength. This season, they have limited opponents on the road to 33.4 percent shooting from 3-point range which ranks second in the league. Although they have been even better since the break in limiting teams to 31.3 percent shooting from 3-point range, although they have slipped to being No. 3 in the league in this category.

OPPONENT OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE

When it came to missed shots against the Boston Celtics, often that would be their best offense with the way Boston allowed teams to get second and third-shot opportunities. This season on the road, Boston opponents had an offensive rebound percentage of .248 which ranks 29th in the league. But since the all-star break, Boston has done a significantly better job in limiting opponents on the offensive glass as their opponent offensive rebound percentage has dropped to .206 which is the 10th-best mark in the NBA. 

Stars, studs and duds: Another brilliant performance by Thomas

Stars, studs and duds: Another brilliant performance by Thomas

CHICAGO –  Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 104-95 Game 4 win over Chicago.
 
 
STARS
 
Isaiah Thomas

It was yet another brilliant performance by Thomas who has established himself as the most impactful performer in this series. He led the Celtics with 33 points on 10-for-21 shooting with seven assists.
 
Jimmy Butler

He matched Isaiah Thomas in terms of points, but didn’t get nearly as much help from those around him. Butler’s 33 points primarily came from the free throw line where he was 19-for-23. The 23 attempts ranks third all-time among Celtics playoff opponents from the line.
 
 
STUDS
 
Gerald Green

His scoring at the start of the game really set the tone for Boston. He finished with 18 points, 16 of which came in the first half.
 
Al Horford

For the second straight game, Horford was a decisive winner in the battle at center with Robin Lopez. He had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists and a blocked shot.
 
Kelly Olynyk

He didn’t play major minutes, but certainly was an important key in Boston getting the victory. He made all four of his shots from the field, finishing with 10 points to go with three rebounds and a blocked shot.
 

DUDS
 
Chicago’s point guards

Jerian Grant was an absolute disaster as a starter, missing all three of his shot attempts in less than five minutes of action. His backup, Michael Carter-Williams, wasn’t much better, either. Isaiah Canaan (13 points) was their best option and should be the starter for them in Game 5.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart: 'He's a great actor, acting tough'

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart: 'He's a great actor, acting tough'

Jimmy Butler ripped Marcus Smart after Smart got in Butler's face during Game 4.

"As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he's a great actor," Butler said. "Acting tough, that's what he does. But I don't think he's about that, and I just don't think -- I'm the wrong guy to get in my face. He needs to take it somewhere else, because I'm not the one for that."

The two players confronted each other during the first half. They exhanged shoves before quickly getting separated by referees. The officials kept the dustup from escalating despite more Celtics and Bulls players getting into the mix.

Butler, who finished the game with 33 points, said he has no interest in getting into it with Smart again.

"That's the first time. The last time, too," Butler said. "We're not going to sit here and get in each other's faces. I'm not about that life, so he's calming down."