Led by Al Horford, the Celtics shut down Kristaps Porzingis
The new face of the Knicks franchise, Kristaps Porzingis, came into Tuesday night's meeting with the Celtics as the second leading scorer in the league. The Latvian had lit up the scoreboard in his first two contests, and his 32 points per game trailed only Giannis Antetokounmpo's absurd 36.8 average. Boston knew they would have their hands full with the 7'3" unicorn:
Brad Stevens says Kristaps Porzingis is a great challenge to defend because guards can't affect his shots, and bigs can't keep up with him.
Coach Stevens and his troops were well prepared, though. Porzingis drew a matchup with Al Horford, who dominated the 22-year-old rising star. The veteran put the clamps on Porzingis, forcing him to miss all seven of his shots while Horford was covering him. Horford kept up with Porzingis' rare combination of size, length, speed, and spacing, heavily contesting every shot the seven-footer put up.
Porzingis found zero success against Horford and fellow Celtics frontcourt matchup Aron Baynes:
Kristaps Porzingis shot 0/10 on shots contested by Al Horford and Aron Baynes tonight, and they were all tightly contested.
Look at Horford's defensive possession on the Knicks star big man here and how he is able to use his mobility to get back in the play and block the shot:
He may only have been recorded for having one block on the stat sheet, but his presence extended much beyond that. In fact, it felt like he had at least five blocks in the game due to his constant presence in the post. While Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum may have captured headlines, Coach Stevens commented on how valuable Al has been on the defensive end:
"He was great on [Ben] Simmons [last] Friday, he was unbelievable tonight on Porzingis," Stevens said. "And it's not just that; the way that we were guarding Porzingis -- we had a lot of guards switching onto him and doing different things, and I thought that both Al and then for a few minutes, that Semi [Ojeleye] was in the game on him, both provided a good lift in that regard."
In addition to locking down Porzingis, Horford still did his thing on offense. It was another efficient night in the office for the 31-year-old, who finished with 13 points (on 63% shooting), 13 boards, and five assists. To put that into perspective, his star matchup had 12 points on a poor 3/14 shooting and five rebounds.
Even when New York forced switches and got favorable matchups for Porzingis, the Celtics were ready. They were in-sync defensively, using great communication to cover for one another and always be in the right places. Boston's switches and swarming help defense were too much for Porzingis to handle.
Here, Brown gets caught on a screen and is forced to contain the big man, where he does a great job holding his ground. Also, note how Baynes momentarily rotates over to help out:
Celtics have a lot to throw at Porzingis and showed that well. Baynes and Horford roughed him up. Here's Brown battling after a switch: pic.twitter.com/33V85fcGrC