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Boston Celtics' defense feels right at home on Christmas Day

By Zach Harper | NBA writer
Boston made sure Brooklyn's offense came up short(s). (Getty Images)

This is the Boston Celtics' team we've been waiting to see appear all season. In a national TV spotlight, the Celtics pulled out their old defensive effort and reminded us this squad can be a pretty tough team to score against. The 93-76 win might have reminded Boston how it's supposed to play.

All season, the Celtics have been a solid defensive team but they've also been a far cry from the second-best defense in the NBA that we saw last season. In the 2011-12 season, Boston's defensive rating at 95.5 points per 100 possessions was second to only the Chicago Bulls' 95.3. As the Celtics try to find their way this season with a lot of new members on the roster, they've been a good defensive team but nothing close to what we've seen since Kevin Garnett came to town in 2007.

The Celtics this year are giving up 101.2 points per 100 possessions, good for 11th in the NBA. It's not bad, but it's not Celtics basketball. Against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day, Boston didn't allow the Nets to get into any kind of offensive rhythm. The Celtics allowed just 76 points on 40.6 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from downtown. The Nets didn't help themselves, either, by turning over the ball 20 times and missing 12 of their 29 free-throw attempts.

The Celtics' young(ish) core of Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green all had great games against Brooklyn. Rondo set the tempo all game by pushing the tempo at times to force defensive mismatches, getting into the paint, and even knocking down jumpers. Green attacked well and Sullinger had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

But where Boston really shined was with its defense. Deron Williams battled a left leg injury and Rondo's flustering defense. Joe Johnson couldn't find any sort of rhythm outside of one long banked-in 3-pointer. Brook Lopez was shut down by Garnett and Jason Collins(yes, THAT Jason Collins). And the Brooklyn bench barely contributed.

The only player who showed much fight was Gerald Wallace, who ended up getting a technical for getting tangled in KG's shorts and later was flagrantly fouled by Sullinger. It fired up Wallace to keep attacking and attempting to get some pride to permeate throughout his teammates. Unfortunately for him, his Brooklyn teammates didn't follow.

The Celtics' defense cut off the restricted area, which has been a successful part of the Nets' offense this year. They were ninth in restricted-area field-goal percentage heading into this game at 59.9 percent, but the Celtics only allowed 48.4 percent in the restricted area. KG, Collins, and even Sullinger cut off lanes inside. They challenged shots and dominated the boards early.

And this is really what Celtics' fans have been waiting to see. This has long been a team built on a defensive tenacity, work ethic, and execution that stifles opposing offenses. With the Nets coming in as the 10th-best offensive team in the NBA, the Celtics had their work cut out to get back to their defensive roots.

We have no idea if they're going to be able to keep this up. Five of the Celtics' next seven games are on the road, with most of those coming against playoff teams (sorry, Sacramento). They'll really have to find some defensive consistency to play through this stretch and regain the focus and reputation that was created by defensive greatness.

Tuesday was a good start.

 
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