Rajon Rondo brings out the obvious: the Boston Celtics are not playing defense. The Celtics of a few years ago would routinely hold opponents down to 90 points or less. Now? Their opponents are averaging almost 98 points a game, good for 17th in the league. They’re in the middle of the pack on defensive rating (points allowed per possession); the Celtics are 14th overall.
What’s wrong? Here’s Rondo’s response via Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com:
“We’re not playing it (defense),” the point guard said following the Celtics loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. “I don’t know (why). We’ve just got to try to take it one step at a time. It starts with me so I’ve just got to hold myself more accountable.”
“Just our trust, our trust isn’t there,” he said. “When we do make a mistake, we don’t make up for one another. In the past, a guy may be off the dribble or a guy might have an open shot, a guy might run from no matter where and cover up and contest the shot. Right now, we’re just standing watching our guys take open looks.”
The Celtics do look a little different. Rondo, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are the only players left from their 2008 championship. They’re battle-tested, yes, but the rest of the current team weren’t there with them then.
The good news is that Avery Bradley has returned. Bradley had become so good guarding the perimeter that it made the decision a little easier for the Celtics to let Ray Allen go. However, he was not so good in his first game back (against the Grizzlies). Mike Conley had 23 points against the Celtics.
Bradley and Kevin Garnett offered their thoughts via Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe:
“It’s not guarding our guys,” said Bradley. “We’ve all got to be on a string and helping each other out. Once we learn that we’ll be fine. That’s been our struggle, what we’ve been working on a lot in practice.”
Center Kevin Garnett, who brought the defense-on-a-string mentality to the Celtics when he arrived in 2007, said Bradley would be a big part in the team getting back there.
“I thought he brought some good energy,” said Garnett. “It’s good to have him back. He’s a big part of this scheme. We want to be better and he’s a big part of that process.”
The Celtics have lost four straight and have yet to establish their identity for this season. In the past few years, it’s been their defense that had made a mark in this league as they were routinely at or near the top in terms of defensive rating and points allowed. For them to get back to the elite of the East, they’re going to have to figure out the kinks of their defense.
Rondo and Garnett will definitely bring it. With the return of Avery Bradley, their defense should get better. But are they depending on his presence too much?
We’ll find out in the next few games on where the Celtics are defensively. In their last four losses, three teams scored over 100 against them. They play against the Indiana Pacers (who beat the Washington Wizards in their last game) on Friday night.