Celtics not straying from what they know on defense

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Celtics not straying from what they know on defense

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Hawks trotted out a new starting lineup in Game 5, with Marvin Williams and Al Horford.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics' defense?

Same as it ever was.

"We are who we are (defensively)," said C"s coach Doc Rivers before the game. "We're not ashamed of that. When we do it right, we're really good."

They certainly have been in this series, limiting Atlanta to less than 41 percent shooting in every game.

But with Joe Johnson sliding over to the shooting guard position and having a huge advantage size-wise over 6-2 Avery Bradley, the C's had to tweak their defense slightly.

"That's not a matchup we love," Rivers said. "But it's what we have."

Throughout this season, making due with what they have has been the Celtics' way of doing things defensively.

"That's who we are; that's our identity," C's guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com. "We're a defensive-minded team."

And it's not just the Hawks who recognize how strong the Celtics are defensively.

"They're especially strong with their half court defense, which is what the playoffs are all about," said an NBA scout. "And as we all know, the game slows down, a lot, in the playoffs. When you play great half court defense, it gives you a chance to win every night regardless of whether your best player or best players have it going offensively. That's why the Celtics are such a good playoff team."

Boston put that strong defensive play to work early in Game 5, limiting Atlanta to just 15 points on 6-for-21 shooting (28.6 percent) in the first quarter.

And while the C's didn't exactly shoot the lights out - they connected on 42.9 percent of their shots - Boston still had a 21-15 lead at the end of the quarter. The Hawks were better in the second quarter, connecting on 9 of its 21 shots from the field. But it still wasn't enough to take the lead, with the half ending in a 40-all tie.

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.

Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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