It is rare to see coach Brad Stevens ranting and raving along the sidelines, like the rightly-much-maligned Rick Pitino used to do. Brad is either quietly scrutinizing his guys on the court, consulting his notes or adding to them. The lesson to some other coaches in the league is that yelling at your players or the referees might cause a key play, or non-play, to be missed. Basic stuff.
Stevens seems to be able to see the entire court and what is occurring, or not occurring, on it. He is a genius at transforming what he sees into defensive strategies that are truly working. His offensive strategies are also working well, but he doesn't seem totally thrilled with his team's efforts in that direction.
Stevens: "If our offense catches up to our defense, hopefully we’ll be better. But our offense, we leave way too many points on the board."
With Brad, you either play dedicated defense, or you will see limited minutes. I have reviewed a number of player defensive ratings from various sources, and I am ignoring them. They are all over the place. But sticking to basic team defensive stats, the Celtics are in great shape.
Boston has held opponents to 95 pts or less in 8 straight games, marking its longest streak since doing so 9 times (3/25/12 - 4/8/12)
All of the defensive rankings that I reviewed have the Boston Celtics first, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. After losing two of our best defenders in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, some felt we would be taking a beating on our defense. That has not happened. What I see is that the Celtics are doing it as a team, and they are doing it brilliantly. The director of the defensive brilliance is Stevens.
Red Auerbach was not just a manager of NBA players. He was a manager of men and their personalities, egos and quirks. Quite a quality. Brad Stevens has that same quality. His players respect him and believe what he says.
I know it always seems like I am picking on Pitino, and I am. He came close to ruining the Celtics. His sideline antics produced nothing but a poor record and disdain from his guys and the Boston fans. Brad Stevens more than makes up for the Dark Ages of Rick.
The Boston top-rated defense is on display in the video below. They are the team that every rival hates to play. They are true pests on defense and pull off switches like it's programmed in a video game. They are like a cloud of mosquitoes that won't leave you alone, and from which there is no escape. Brad draws it up and his players execute. He is still not thrilled with his team's offense. But as of this minute we have the NBA's best record. The offense can't be that bad.
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Top Stevens photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports
Pitino photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
Bottom Stevens photo via Winslow Townson/Associated Press
Video credit: Tomasz Korkylewski