If our Boston Celtics are going to take control of this opening round series against the Atlanta Hawks, defense is going to be the thing that matters on Friday night. It’s going to be great having Rajon Rondo back, no question about that. And if Josh Smith can’t go, or isn’t 100%, then that’s going to help the cause. But the bottom line is that defense still gets it done in the NBA – always has, always will. Sure, we’ve got to score points…more of them than our opponent if we’re going to get the W. But the playoffs are all about possessions and stops. In New York, Carmelo Anthony guns away, but we all know the Knicks will fall to the Heat. Last season the Celtics swept the Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Knicks couldn’t play D, and the Celtics stepped up when it counted. A year later the Knicks are still a mess, but the one constant in Boston is a commitment to making it happen on the defensive end of the court.
I know what you’re thinking. This Celtics team isn’t thought of as a great defensive team, not by any stretch of the imagination. But the one thing this team is, is resilient. Somehow it seems to find a way. Call Avery Bradley addition by subtraction, because his emergence clearly coincides with the loss of Ray Allen due to an ankle injury. Bradley has stepped into the starting lineup at the 2 and has brought a tenaciousness ball hawking mentality to the perimeter. He’s young, he’s aggressive, he gets after it. Greg Stiemsma gives Doc Rivers a shot-blocker off the bench. Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass do whatever it takes to slow their opponent down. Kevin Garnett? He may have moved to the center spot, but that hasn’t changed his love for getting it done with D.
You’ve got to give Doc Rivers a ton of credit. His guys aren’t big and they aren’t deep. In fact, his Celtics are statistically the worst rebounding team in the history of the NBA. But this group just seems to find a way. In Game 2 they won without their unbelievably talented point guard and the greatest 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA. Pierce played one of the greatest games of his career, and the Celtics found a way to slow down the Hawks when it counted.
Don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for more of the same tomorrow night. And if we get our wish, the Celtics will go up 2-1 and Rondo’s return will be very sweet indeed.