Biggest Celtics surprise might be their defense

Biggest Celtics surprise might be their defense
December 5, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Teammates have singled out Brandon Bass as instrumental to the Celtics' defense.

(AP Photo)

WALTHAM, Mass. — Aside from their unexpected rise to top of the NBA's bottom feeders - better known to most as the Atlantic Division - the next biggest surprise about the Celtics has been how well they've played defensively this season.

Boston still ranks among the NBA's top 10 in scoring defense (96.8 points, No. 7) as they go about getting the job done with a Kevin Garnett-less defense.

Garnett, part of the blockbuster trade with Brooklyn over the summer, was the heart and soul of Boston's stout defense that was among the league's best for years.

His departure was expected to usher in an era of defensive ineptitude, seeing as though most of the team's core returners were not considered to be anywhere close to the same class defensively as Garnett.

Truth be told, that fact has not changed.

Still, instead of relying on an individual defensive stalwart, they are holding their own as a defensive unit by working together.

Players have sung the praises of Brandon Bass as being instrumental in the team's success defensively.

"He brings energy every night," said Jordan Crawford. "You know what you're going to get out of B-Bass. He's talking on defense, just being more of a leader, the anchor in the back of the defense."

Despite a less-than-stellar record (8-12), the struggles certainly haven't been because of shoddy defense.

In addition to ranking among the teams giving up the least amount of points this season, the Celtics defensive rating is 101.4, which ranks ninth in the NBA.

Last season, the team had a defensive rating of 100.4, which was the sixth-best mark in the league.

In addition to Bass, Jared Sullinger credits assistant coach Ron Adams for also playing a vital role in the Celtics maintaining a solid defense.

Adams came to Boston from Chicago, where he was instrumental, under the leadership of former Celtic assistant and current Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, in helping the Bulls become one of the NBA's best all-around defenses.

"He knows his stuff," Sullinger said.

Crawford said Adams placing an emphasis on the minor details of defense has been a huge plus for the Celtics this season.

"The little things, have a hand up, make the pass harder, help-side, close out on shooters ... the extra effort parts that make the defense better."

And while there's certainly plenty of room for the Celtics defense to improve upon, considering how they have come together after just a couple months of playing with one another, is encouraging.

"From where we started from and where we're at now, is a big difference," Sullinger said. "Especially after the first couple games, I just thought it was going to go down hill from there. Guys really locked in. As a team we came together and understood that we have to play as a team to win basketball games. Defensively, we're making the right rotations defensively for us to put ourselves in a position to win."