"Defense is more important than breathing!" I love that quote from the movie "The Air Up There" where Kevin Bacon goes over to Afica to recruit a player and ends up teaching the natives to play basketball. It is a great line and maybe not one that would work in the NBA, but certainly defense is one of the more important concepts in building a championship team. The old saying goes that offense sells tickets and defense wins games.
For 3 years now, Doc and Danny have both talked about the need for a better defense but we didn't see them do much to improve it. At one point, Doc made the statement that he worked on offense in practice and that the team would pick up the defense while working on offense since half the team has to play defense while they worked on the offensive sets. Needless to say, they didn't get the defense very well. We had a few good defenders such as Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo and Perk. But then, we also had our share of poor defenders and the team defense was pretty much non existent. The Celtics were one of the worst teams defensively last season and it showed in our record.
Fast forward to this season and defense has become a priority. Tom Thibodeau was hired as assistant coach. Kevin Garnett traded for our young players. And Doc is saying how important defense is. The whole team is committed to playing defense. The Celtics are the best team defensively and it shows in our record.
The Celtics are holding opponents to a league best 87 points per game on 41% shooting. They hold the best record in the league when scoring under 100 points. The Celtics are 8-0 when scoring under 100 points. The next closest is the Spurs who are 6-5, Magic who are 4-4, hornets who are 7-8 and Raptors who are 6-7. That is a pretty incredible stat.
In many games, the Celtics allow teams to hang around in the first half. Then, in the 3rd quarter, they turn it up defensively and smother the other team. It starts at the top with KG but every player has bought into it. Defense may not be more important than breathing, but it certainly is essential to winning a championship. Championship #17 will be won on the defensive end of the court and for the first time in a very long time, the Celtics have that commitment to defense and the ability to carry it out.