Celtics bench picking up the defensive mindset

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Celtics bench picking up the defensive mindset

MIAMI The idea of strong bench play usually comes down to how much they score.

But the Boston Celtics are a team that prides itself on playing great defense -- backups included. And when you look at all that has contributed to the Celtics' most recent run of wins, the second unit's ability to defend has been huge.

In fact, Boston's bench ranks among the NBA's best at limiting the scoring of their fellow backup brethren.

"It all starts with our defensive leader, Kevin Garnett," Celtics guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com. "He really does set the tone, as do all our starters, really. And those of us on the bench, we try to pick up where they left off defensively, or take it to another level if we can."

According to the website hoopsstats.com, second units are scoring a league-low 26.1 points per game against Boston.

And while the C's usually have a starter or two on the floor most of the game, there's no question that this second unit's strength lies in their ability to defend.

In Boston's last two wins, the second quarter -- this is when the C's rely on their bench more than any other time in the game -- has been surprisingly strong for them.

Against Indiana on Saturday, Boston held the Pacers to just 14 second-quarter points which was a huge factor in the Celtics' 86-72 win.

And on Sunday against Philadelphia, Boston once again gave up just 14 points in the second quarter.

"Defensively when you play like that, you're going to win a lot of games," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "(Against Indiana) I thought we played defense like that, but we just couldn't make a shot. And like I told you before the game, we had open shots; just none of them went in. (Against Philadelphia) we played the exact same defense but the ball went in, and that was a good effort."

Like a second unit full of scorers, Boston is getting multiple backups stepping up their game and making a difference with their play defensively.

Rookie center Greg Stiemsma continues to give Boston quality minutes off the bench. He's averaging a team-high 1.5 blocks per game this season, but has swatted eight in Boston's last two games.

And Sasha Pavlovic had one of the more memorable plays on Sunday, as he soared into the lane to block an attempted dunk by Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young. Even Ray Allen who is primarily looked upon to provide scoring, has tallied four steals in the C's last two games.

"We have a lot of guys that can score, but we're a defensive team," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's who we are."

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.

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And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”

 Boom!