Celtics

Celtics

The plan going forward for the Boston Celtics is to improve their position on the boards.

And the best way to do that? 

Improve their position on the floor, a point of emphasis for the Celtics heading into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards. 

The Celtics (3-3) have lost their last two games with both defeats fueled in large part by Boston’s inability to rebound, or box out potential rebounders. 

In their 128-122 loss to Cleveland on Nov. 3, the Cavs won the boards by six (35-29) which helped jumpstart Cleveland’s fast break game which outscored Boston, 23-6. 

And in Boston’s 123-107 loss to Denver on Sunday, the Nuggets were +8 (47-39) on the glass which was a factor in Denver holding a 15-7 edge in second-chance points.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has plenty of options to point to when it comes to identifying what’s not working right now for the Celtics. 

The team’s overall inability to establish position consistently seems to be at or near the top of his need-to-improve list.

“I don’t think we’re in position helping well enough right now; we’re spread out,” Stevens said. “When we are in position to help, we’re not in the right stance and everything else. And when we do decide to get into the ball or re-direct the ball, we’re OK at it but not as good as we need to be.

 

Stevens added, “Defense is a five-man proposition. If one is not in the right spot or the right place, you’re always going to be exposed.”

Of course Boston’s defensive position issues are exacerbated by the fact that key players in their team’s defensive success are not on the floor. 

Al Horford remains in the NBA’s concussion protocol program after being hit in the head in practice on October 31.

Jae Crowder suffered a left ankle sprain against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 3. 

And that doesn’t even factor in Kelly Olynyk who could make his regular season debut tonight against the Wizards. 

Boston, one of the top defenses in the NBA last season, ranks near the bottom in several defensive categories. 

The Celtics’ defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 110.2 ranks 29th in the NBA and Boston’s rebounding percentage of 46.8 percent is 28th in the league. 

“The reality is,” said Stevens, “even with one, two or three of those guys out at once, we should still be better than we have been.”

The players currently out for Boston, Horford and Crowder specifically, do more than just deliver with their play. 

They are also two of Boston’s better communicators on the floor which is another factor in the team’s defensive struggles.

“Communication is second to position,” Stevens said. “You have to be in the right spot before you can tell everybody else where to be.  Position is really important. We’re going to have to play inside-out and we’re going to have to fly around.” 

While there’s certainly value in being in the right spot, having the right frame of mind is important too.

“We’re just not in it,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “We’re coming out too cool. Teams coming out ready. We’re not sneaking up on teams. We’re the hunted. Everybody is coming after us and we’re so used to being the guys sneaking up on everybody. That’s just not the case this year.”