Celtics

Defense no longer Celtics' identity

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Defense no longer Celtics' identity

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

HOUSTON When you look at all the changes the Boston Celtics have made lately, it's clear that they have added more weapons offensively.

But at what cost?

The Celtics are still one of the NBA's upper echelon teams defensively, even with all the new faces.

But as far as defense remaining this team's identity?

The more you watch them play, the more this point becomes debatable.

You can add one more reason to question this team's foundation being about defense, following Friday night's 93-77 loss at Houston.

Houston only shot 43.8 percent from the field, and scored less than 100 points - the kind of defensive benchmarks you would ideally like to see every game.

But what's lost in the numbers, is how that defense was impacted by the Celtics offense not getting off to a good start.

Houston opened the game with an 8-1 spurt, fueled in large part by the Celtics' inability to make shots that on most nights, usually fall in.

Those missed shots seemed to result in some frustration that eventually seeped into the team's defensive efforts.

And just like that, the Celtics found themselves on the short end of a potential blowout - before halftime.

"We showed them seven, point-blank shots at the basket (at halftime) that didn't go in," Rivers said. "I thought we got a little frustrated because we were missing shots."

Rivers added, "that's uncharacteristic of us. But I definitely thought our offense led to our bad defense."

That is a damning commentary when you consider how much stock the Celtics put into being a stout, gritty defensive-minded team.

"Even though we missed shots, we missed lay-ups, that should never discourage us of how we play night-in and night-out on the defensive end," said Paul Pierce. "We got our work cut out for us if we want to retain home court (throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs), if we want to be on top of the East. We have to wake up inside if we're going to consistently play the type of Celtics defense that got us this record."

Kevin Garnett is the anchor of the Celtics defense, which has been among the NBA's best ever since Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce to form the Big Three in 2007.

And as much as Garnett prides himself and his teammates in putting defense first, he can't say with any degree of certainty whether or not the C's allowed their offensive woes early on against the Rockets impact their play at the other end of the floor.

"I want to say no, because we're a defensive team and we can't let offense dictate defense," Garnett said. "But it certainly seemed that way. They got into an early rhythm and it was hard to turn them off."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Report: If Spurs can't retain Kawhi Leonard, they'll trade him to Eastern Conference team

Report: If Spurs can't retain Kawhi Leonard, they'll trade him to Eastern Conference team

If the San Antonio Spurs can't retain disgruntled Kawhi Leonard, they'll likely trade him to an Eastern Conference team, according to a USA TODAY report.

The Celtics have made inquiries about Leonard, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this month. 

More from Sam Amick's story in USA TODAY: 

Fellow West teams have been told, in essence, to get lost – none moreso than the Lakers, according to ESPN. As it stands, the Spurs are determined to either fix the situation or trade Leonard to an Eastern Conference team. For teams other than the Lakers, the threat of losing Leonard in free agency next summer makes the prospect of offering meaningful assets a complicated, calculated risk.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich flew to San Diego earlier this week to meet with Leonard, who reportedly will tell any team he's traded to that he intends to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers when he becomes a free agent next summer. 

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Robert Williams' college coach Billy Kennedy discusses the C's draft pick

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Robert Williams' college coach Billy Kennedy discusses the C's draft pick

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely bring you the latest in Celtics and NBA news in this episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast...

1:40 - The Celtics select Robert Williams with the 27th overall pick. Draper and Blakely discuss why he was still on the board and if the reward will outweigh the risk.

5:15 - Blakely says that a comparison to Roger Williams could be Clint Capela, with maybe a chance to be even better. Also, a discussion about why the Celtics did not move up in the draft.

8:27 - 18:18 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely are joined by Texas A&M head basketball coach Billy Kennedy. Kennedy describes the potential he sees in Robert Williams, if he thought he would go higher in the draft, and what part of his game he will need to improve in the NBA.

18:53 - All eyes will be on Roger Williams during the Celtics summer league. What will he be able to bring to the Celtics?

20:04 - Would you want the Celtics to sign Dwight Howard? Or would you rather have Aron Baynes return to Boston?

26:02 - The Spurs are not going to be able to get full value for Kawhi Leonard and how it's looking less and less likely that the Celtics will trade for Leonard.

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