The old adage that Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships is very true. Everyone wants to see the high flying dunks and the run and gun offense because it is exciting. But it takes tough defense if you are going to win a championship.
I remember the Pistons/Spurs series from a couple of years back where both teams played very tough defense and we were seeing final scores in the 60's and 70's and everyone was saying what a boring series it was. I really enjoyed those games because I love defense and when it is played the right way, is absolutely exciting. I mean, it is the equivalent of a no hitter in baseball.
Last season the league adopted a dramatic shift in how it interpreted the rules of the game. The new rules no longer allow for a defensive player on the perimeter to use his hand, arm, or any sort of physical contact to impede or block the movement of a player who is cutting or handling the ball. Gone are the defensive battles like we used to see in the old days of Dumars guarding Jordan or the battles between DJ and Magic.
The new rules give an advantage to the quicker wing players. Because of this, Danny's decision to move toward a fast break team makes a lot of sense. It is no surprise that the quicker wings last season, Lebron, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, and Dwayne Wade were a lot more prominent in their team's offense and why they went to the line a lot more. These quicker wing players have a distinct advantage in that defenses have to give them leeway under the new rules.
Last year in the playoffs, it was very evident that the way the game is being officiated made a difference in the outcome. Wade drove to the basket time after time and was able to draw touch fouls each time and if he couldn't finish, he went to the line. There was nothing Dallas could do to stop him and when they tried, they put him on the line.
While the new rules have changed the way defense is played on the perimeter, defense under the basket is still played the same way. Centers and bigs can still be physical under the basket. Doc made a comment that they were working on a defense to funnel players into the center where they would be met by Perk or Ratliff. That sounds like a good plan in that we have physical players under the basket to play tough defense and block shots.
The new rules do seem to benefit the Celtics as they are currently built. We have very quick wing players and point guards who can quickly bring the ball up the court and other teams will be unable to employ the hand check or physical defense that players could previously. Rondo's defense is made for this type of play as well. He is so quick and has such quick hands that he easily can strip a ball without touching the opposing player.
The bottom line is that defense as we once knew it is no more. We will see teams struggling to run more as that gives them an advantage on the wing. Danny is ahead of the curve as he has been building this type of team for the last 3 years and he completed it by adding 2 of the quickest PG's in the league this offseason. We will run more and get past defenses on the perimeter and use our shooters on the wings to open up things inside for our bigs.
With the advantage going to the offensive player in the open court, we need to play a team defense and that is where Doc has got to work on it in practice. He can no longer depend on the individual players to play in your face defense on the perimeter. It will almost always lead to free throws for the other team. We need to work on defending the pick and roll as we got burned on that play just about every time last season, yet Doc didn't see the need to work on it in practice because players learn defense while working on the offense. How Doc approaches defense this season is going to in a large part determine our success. At least with Clifford Ray teaching our bigs how to play defense in the post, we can have hope that things will be better.
I like to watch offense, but it gets tiring watching a powerful offense give up so many points. Its like fluff basketball. Its no how baskeball needs to be played. I also want to see our Celtics become one of the better defenses around the league. We already have a good offensive team and we can become an even more efficient offensive team with the help of improved defense. Stealing passes and forcing turnovers will initiate fastbreaks and get us some easy transition points. Forcing teams to take bad shots with the shot clock winding down will help us to get a jump on moving the other way down the court for more easy transition points.
The name of the game is to get easy points. Playing better defense will help us to get easy points.