Horford and Baynes spearhead Celtics' league-leading defensive effort


Horford and Baynes spearhead Celtics' league-leading defensive effort

BOSTON -- The Celtics -- on a five-game winning streak after losing their first two -- are riding high these days, stringing together the kind of run that stands out for all the right reasons.

But tonight’s game against Sacramento presents a different kind of challenge.

The Celtics are doing more than just facing another competitor tonight. They must also contend with complacency -- something they haven’t had to worry about this season due to the quality of their opponents.


The Kings (1-6) are playing some of the worst basketball in the NBA right now, as evidenced by their record. Scoring, points allowed, field-goal percentage . . . you name it, and there’s a good chance the Kings rank among the league’s bottom 10 in it.

And as much as Boston has shown a knack for playing well against all opponents, nobody they've faced so far has struggled like Sacramento. They Celtics will say they respect all opponents, but they're no different than most elite teams in the struggle to treat terrible teams and tremendously talented ones with the same edge.

Because as bad as the Kings’ record may be, they still have enough quality players to knock off the Celtics if Boston isn’t careful. Willie Cauley-Stein and De'Aaron Fox are both solid young players with clear upside, though they’re still going through the lumps most youngsters endure in the early stages of their careers. Veterans like George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter may all be past their prime -- and certainly haven't done much this year -- but, on paper, they're solid contributors.

So for Boston to survive this trap game, it must remain mindful of what's been the foundation of the winning streak: Defense.

The Celtics come into tonight’s game with a league-best defensive rating of 95.6. It's been a collective team effort, but the two pillars of their defensive success have been Al Horford and Aron Baynes.

They have been a dynamic defensive duo for the Celtics. They've paired up for a defensive rating of 77.9, which is the second-best mark among tandems to play in at least seven games this season according to nba.com/stats.

Besides having tremendous length across the board defensively, coach Brad Stevens also attributes Boston’s quicker-than-expected defensive success to the Horford-Baynes pairing.

“Our communication with Al and Aron is excellent,” Stevens said. “You know, if you go through something and walk through one time with Al and Aron, they can direct the whole thing. So that’s pretty . . . pretty unique, I think.”

Said Horford: “We’re just really buying into what Coach wants us to do and our young guys, they’re all ears. They’re really listening, trying to be better. We’re just trying to get better game by game.”


Old Takes Exposed reminds us of a brutal date in Celtics history

Old Takes Exposed reminds us of a brutal date in Celtics history

The 2018-19 season certainly didn't end well for the Celtics, but an important thing to remember is that it could always be worse. The notorious Twitter account Old Takes Exposed reminded us all how true that sentiment can be Sunday.

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the 1997 NBA Draft Lottery, where the Celtics owned the second-best odds to land the top pick, and generational prospect Tim Duncan. As we know, the Spurs ended up winning while the Celtics fell to the third overall pick. 

Duncan was the ultimate prize in 1997, so losing the lottery was a tough blow to a Celtics franchise that needed a reason for hope after the end of the Larry Bird era and the tragic passing of Reggie Lewis. 

Boston ultimately made out well by selecting future Hall of Fame point guard Chauncey Billups, but Duncan was on another level as a prospect. 

At the time, a Buffalo News column claimed that the Celtics had something better than Tim Duncan; newly hired head coach Rick Pitino. 

Pitino was hired after winning a National Championship with the University of Kentucky, but his six-year run in Boston was not nearly as successful. He posted a 192-220 record as head coach, traded Billups during his rookie season along with Dee Brown for Kenny Anderson, Popeye Jones and Zan Tabak. Not great. 

And of course, there was the famous, "Not walking through that door," rant. 

Pitino at least drafted Celtics legend Paul Pierce, but his tenure as the team's head coach is one of the darker spots in the franchise's history. 

Duncan went on to win five championships with the Spurs and leaves a legacy as arguably the best power forward of all time. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics target JB Bickerstaff agrees to join Cavaliers

Celtics target JB Bickerstaff agrees to join Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics have an assistant coach opening on their roster. After Micah Shrewsberry left the team to coach at Purdue, the team is looking to hire another assistant for Brad Stevens' staff. 

Recently, the Celtics reportedly interviewed JB Bickerstaff for the role. Bickerstaff, 40, has 15 years of experience as an assistant coach and has also served as the interim for the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies. So, it's easy to see why the team wanted him.

However, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended up agreeing to terms with Bickerstaff, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Bickerstaff's experience will help first-time NBA coach, John Beilein, to transition from coaching a top college program to coaching an NBA team, as Wojnarowski pointed out. That explains why the Cavs were so willing to pay up for Bickerstaff's services.

While the Celtics may be disappointed that they missed out on Bickerstaff, there are plenty of other coaching candidates available for the team. Notably, former Celtics player Kendrick Perkins has expressed an interest in coaching for the team, but it's unclear if Brad Stevens and company want a more seasoned coach on their roster. Either way, they will continue to try and find a replacement for the departed Shrewsberry.

'Nearly any kind of transaction' in play for Celtics this offseason>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.