De-fense! De-fense! De-fense!
There are times when the Celtics get in a zone. I'm not talking about zone defense, or getting in a zone shooting the ball, I'm talking about getting in a zone playing defense. When a shooter starts making shot after shot, the basket looks bigger and the game just sort of slows down. I think that is what must happen to the Celtics on defense sometimes.
They see the ball moving and instinctively rotate to the right spots. They see a ball handler make his move and anticipate his next 3 moves before he knows he'll make them. They funnel drives to help and blow up pick and rolls. And by the time the ball is hoisted desperately at the basket, the 24 second clock is buzzing and the opposing coach is pulling out any hair he might have left.
It isn't pretty unless you are a Celtics fan, and then it is the most beautiful thing in the world. We've all seen teams get on hot streaks shooting the ball and make big runs as a result. The Celtics somehow do it with defense. They might only score 7 points in a 5 minute stretch, but when you are shutting out the other team, that makes for a 7-0 run - which can be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs.
Paul Pierce received the majority of the props for his virtuoso performance in Game 2 -- and justifiably so. He was terrific. But you also have to give enormous credit to KG, Pierce, Avery Bradley and two unlikely sorts, Mickael Pietrus and -- am I actually writing this? -- Marquis Daniels. The small-ball quintet was on the floor for the final 10:22 of Game 2 when the Celtics overtook the Hawks and stifled them. The Hawks saw a five-point lead turn into a nine-point deficit. The final was 87-80. Yup, there it is again. To paraphrase George Stephanopoulos, "It's the defense, stupid."
Yup, pretty much.