BOSTON - Courtney Lee had a breakout game offensively Thursday night in Brooklyn with 18 points.
But it was his defense that literally stole the show in Boston's blowout win.
For all that the C's did well defensively against the Nets, no one seemed to benefit more than Lee who began the game with the first of his game-high four steals which led to a dunk.
Even more impressive was the defensive job he did on Joe Johnson which was among the keys to Boston playing with a lead the entire night.
Johnson had 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting which included him missing eight of his nine shots in the first half with Lee being the primary defender on him most of the time.
"I'm just a competitor," Lee told Comcast SportsNet. "I like that. He (Johnson) is an All-Star player. So what better player to go up against to test your defense than an All-Star player?"
Celtics coach Doc Rivers sees Lee returning to the better-than-average form he displayed earlier in his career with Orlando.
"Courtney was the best defender on the floor," Rivers said. "He does a lot of tough things."
And he goes about it in a quiet, unassuming manner. But don't let the soft spoken demeanor fool you.
"He doesn't say too much, but he's competitive, man," said Paul Pierce. "He doesn't care who you are. He's always confident in his defense and we are, too."
Added Rivers: "Courtney's important for us. We want a defensive unit to start games."
And that likely means Lee will be in the starting lineup at shooting guard instead of Jason Terry.
"Start, come off the bench. It doesn't matter to me," Lee said. "We have enough talent that there's really no let-off in whoever is out there. Me, JT (Jason Terry), we both can impact games."
Terry, a former Sixth man of the year award winner (2009), is known for his clutch, long-range shooting.
Meanwhile, Lee is laying the groundwork to establish himself as a top flight defender. Rivers isn't surprised to see Lee perform at a high level defensively.
"We thought he was (a good defender)," Rivers said. "He was in Orlando."
Lee's rookie season with the Magic ended with a trip to the NBA Finals, the only team he has played with that was a legit title contender.
And it's not a coincidence that his defense since then hasn't stood out as much ... until now.
"The last winning team he was on, yes, he was a heck of a defender," Rivers said. "And now he's getting that back again which is good."