Celtics

Defense is what's fueling the Celtics' strong play of late

Defense is what's fueling the Celtics' strong play of late

BOSTON -- The Los Angeles Lakers came to town and got crushed by the Boston Celtics. 

Up next was Memphis, a red-hot team on the rise with a next-level rookie leading the way, who got one of those back-of-the-woodshed beatdowns. 

The Celtics are coming off their best back-to-back performances this season and are looking to continue that strong play away from the TD Garden with the next three games on the road, beginning with Friday night’s matchup at Orlando. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Indeed, there is an undeniable amount of pressure on them to continue on their winning ways. 

And the key to that success lies in their defense; specifically their ability to apply pressure at a consistent level. 

The last two games have seen the Celtics deliver the defensive hammer in a way we have not seen with this kind of consistency. 

Yes, it’s only two games. 

But here’s the thing. 

You can probably count the minutes in those two games that Boston hasn’t played with a sharp edge defensively, on the one hand. 

And the numbers only amplify how well they have ratcheted up their play at that end of the floor lately. 

In the last two games, Boston’s defense has averaged 25.0 points off turnovers which is tops in the league, 22.5 fast-break points which ranks second in the NBA in the last two games, and they are limiting opponents to just 10.0 points via fast-breaks which is the league’s fifth-lowest average in the last two games. 

Blanketing teams with pressure defensively has been something Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been imploring his players to do all season. 

“Without any resistance, they catch it inside the three-point line or at the three-point line without any resistance, then we’re in trouble,” Stevens said. “Our best rim defense is keeping the ball away from it.”

And lately, the Celtics have done this at an elite level with their position-less brand of basketball paying dividends by being able to switch constantly defensively and not being burned by a bad matchup. 

Daniel Theis has been particularly impressive recently. 

This season, Theis has a defensive rating of 103.4 but in the last two games, his defensive rating is a strong 78.9. 

And when you start looking at Boston’s other core players, they too have seen a noticeable improvement in their defensive ratings such as Jayson Tatum (101.8 defensive rating this season, 80.2 in the last two games); Gordon Hayward (104.7 this season, 91.3 defensive rating the last two games); and Kemba Walker whose defensive rating of 108.6 has taken a major nose dive the last two games, to 94.8. 

“We have to be a defense-first kind of team; we are,” Hayward told NBC Sports Boston earlier this week. “When we let our defense leads the way for us, good things usually happen.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Trail Blazers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

Celtics vs. Trail Blazers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics will look to bounce back against the Portland Trailblazers after falling to the Los Angeles Lakers 114-112 on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the C's will once again be without starting point guard Kemba Walker as he'll miss his third game in a row due to knee soreness. Robert Williams remains out of the lineup, but noted it shouldn't be too long until he makes his return.

Boston will be looking to young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to lead the way in Walker's absence while also hoping Gordon Hayward gets going early after a 29-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week.

Here's how to watch Celtics vs. Trail Blazers, including NBC Sports Boston's pregame coverage, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

HOW TO WATCH

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ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 9 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Holley, Chris Mannix, Chris Forsberg and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

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Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Kemba Walker will miss his third straight game for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night as he continues to recover from a left knee injury.

Walker logged 29 minutes during the NBA All-Star Game, but experienced soreness and swelling in his knee afterward that has prevented him from suiting up with the C's. That begs the question, should Walker have gotten as much playing time as he did?

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens addressed that question Tuesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"That's a good question," Stevens said. "I don't know. I think the biggest thing -- and I said this last week or whatever -- if our medical staff and/or Kemba would have thought that there was any way that he would have come back with more soreness and more swelling, he wouldn't have played. He wouldn't have chose to play. Like, he's not going to do that. So I think it was an unfortunate deal that, you know, the swelling happened. That was kind of the difference in how his knee presented versus how it presented in the past. And it was pretty significant.

"We knew he was going to be out a little bit here, but now what we've tried to do is say OK, what's the best way so we don't play the back-and-forth game? And so that we can have him feeling great and you're not in as much of a day-by-day, 'OK how's he feeling today? How's it going to present tomorrow?' So he's focused in the last three days in really strengthening."

Stevens also reiterated that he doesn't expect this to be a long-term issue with Walker.

"No, he's had regular scans on that really ever since he got back from USA Basketball just to continue to make sure. And by regular, I mean maybe once every other month or once every month-and-a-half. So no, nothing structurally."

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Stevens hasn't ruled Walker out for Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz, though it's more than likely he'll miss his fourth straight contest.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.