Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON — Boston Celtics fans, consider yourself warned. 

Brad Stevens has been sounding the alarm for a while now that the Celtics (22-8), despite stacking up win after win, weren’t as good as their lofty numbers — particularly on defense — might have suggested. 

So in the aftermath of their 113-97 loss to Toronto on Saturday, Stevens is considering all options — including lineup changes.

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“We’ve got to get back to being a better defensive team,” Stevens said. “And we’ve got to find … we’ve got to find the right mix of guys that will defend well together and that complement our best players to defend well. And just get back to that.”

Indeed, there were many things that went wrong for Boston, but nothing stood out more than their shoddy defense — especially in transition — that was lit up by Toronto for most of Saturday’s game. 

“We haven’t been very good at it recently,” Stevens said, referring specifically to the team’s transition defense. “But we’ve been winning, so we’re not talking about it a lot. The bottom line is, is that we have to  … we have to be better on that end of the floor generally.”

For those who focus on the analytics of the game, Stevens’ comments are in striking contrast with some of the more notable numbers associated with good defense, like defensive rating. 

Boston’s defensive rating has taken a dip in large part because of Marcus Smart's eye infection which sidelined him for eight games. 

 

Prior to Smart’s injury, the Celtics had the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA.

During the eight-game span Smart was out, Boston’s defense slipped down to the No. 10 spot. 

Without Smart, the Celtics showed that they still had a good defense. But clearly with him, they become elite. 

And for them to have the kind of long, deep playoff run they are hoping for, the defense has to be as close to being elite as possible — something that can’t happen unless Smart is in the lineup. 

One of the big concerns coming into the season was rebounding on Boston’s part, something that has not been nearly as problematic as anticipated. 

And despite getting absolutely smashed on the glass (53-31) by Toronto, Boston still has the fifth-best rebounding percentage (.520) this month, 11th overall (.503).

That’s a silver lining right there, something this team doesn’t pay much attention to anymore. 

For them, losses serve as teachable moments to build upon going forward. 

“This is definitely a game I will watch on film and learn from,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “On this level of intensity game, we have to be poised and make the right decisions and make the right plays. We missed a lot of easy ones just because of the intensity of the game. We were a little excited but we have to learn from it. We are a young team and we will bounce back.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hornets, which tips off Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 3 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.