Perhaps more than any other aspect of their play, the Boston Celtics have cranked up their defensive intensity over their last two games, and the result has been a pair of much-needed wins over the Orlando Magic and a red-hot Miami Heat franchise that was at the top of the Eastern Conference standings at the time.
There are of course still mistakes being made in coverages, and plenty of other issues ranging from injury to shooting and more, but the ability for the team to buy into new head coach Ime Udoka’s switch-heavy system has paid off well for a team that got off to one of its worst starts in years before it did.
“Yeah, it’s been great,” related the Celtics coach about Boston’s defense in a recent media availability session ahead of the team’s next road game, a Saturday tilt with the Dallas Mavericks.
“Like I mentioned early in training camp, some things that we’re asking them to do early, were probably not natural for all of them,” said Udoka, “so we knew it was going to take some time, but (we’ve) just got to keep working.”
“The thing that’s really been impressive is the team defense, the rotation is behind it, it really stepped up, showing the crowd shift and keeping guys from the rim and then everybody covering each other’s back. So when you watch the film you’ve seen over the last five games, we’ve been number eight in defense, even on the games we lost, we played really well and just had some breakdowns offensively. So we felt good about it even in the losses, and then it just translated those last two games.”
“But the effort understanding and accountability with each other has been great in those five games,” he added.
For Boston to continue to win — particularly in light of the news that star forward Jaylen Brown will miss a considerable stretch of games with hamstring issues — defense will be a critical part of the equation moving forward.
That the team has been able to smother teams more than once is promising — but they’ll need to make it their calling card to succeed in a stacked East, and the Mavs will be the first such test.
This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!
Source: Yahoo Sports