Despite playing less-than-ideal lineups for long stretches in the preseason, the Celtics have established themselves as a defensive power to keep an eye on this season.
After four preseason games, Boston has limited opponents to shooting 24.1 percent on 3s and 40.4 percent from the field as a whole, both ahead of every other team in the association. In addition, the 91.8 points they've allowed ranks 2nd in the NBA.
As I have said repeatedly, you can’t put too much stock into what teams and players do, good or bad, in the preseason.
But when you are a team such as the Celtics, who, on paper, look as though they will stand out as a strong defensive group this season, the fact that you can throw a ton of different bodies on the floor and still defend at a high level should not be taken for granted.
It speaks to the fact that what the Celtics players and coaches have been saying about this team, from a defensive standpoint, holds true.
They may not have a roster full of superstars, but their role players are very much superstars in the way they work together to achieve a common goal - to be among the league’s best defensive teams, from the starting five to the last man on the bench.
And tonight’s game against Knicks in New York will be an ideal test of Boston’s collective defensive efforts.
They face a New York Knicks team that has tremendous star power with Carmelo Anthony and new additions Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
But the new guys have been relative no-shows thus far.
Rose is dealing with a sexual assault trial and is currently in Los Angeles. Health issues have sidelined Noah, who has yet to play a game for the Knicks.
He is hopeful that he'll make his debut tonight.
Both of the new additions provide a much-needed boost of talent.
But if that talent spends most games watching from the sideline, instead of working over an opponent, having that quality on the payroll is useless.
The Knicks are used to trying to get by with a less-than-ideal roster.
While they’re not scoring a ton of points (103.0 which ranks 16th in the preseason), the Knicks are shooting well from 3-point range. They come into tonight’s game connecting on 40.9 percent of their 3-pointers, which is the fifth-best mark in the preseason. And New York’s 3-point defense hasn’t been too shabby. Yhey have limited teams to just 33.3 percent on 3s which ranks 8th in the preseason.
But the Knicks have allowed 105.3 points per game in the preseason, which ranks 23rd in the NBA.
A big reason for those struggles has been the absence of Noah.
The former Chicago Bulls big man signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks in the offseason, but ankle and hamstring injuries have kept out.
”I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Noah told reporters following Friday’s practice.
The Knicks will likely be without Rose until next week.
“We talked to Derrick and kind of covered things we need to cover,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters. “And at this point, we’re not going to send anybody [to Los Angeles to work with Rose]. We’re hoping he’s back early next week.”