The Celtics are one the best teams in the NBA at forcing turnovers. They rank second in opponent turnovers, and fifth in opponent TOV%. The trio of Bradley, Smart, and Crowder has been making life miserable for teams all season. Last night they showed how turnovers can swing a game. Boston scored 26 points off turnovers in their 110-101 victory. They forced 20 turnovers, 14 of those from steals. In a game that got dangerously close in the final minutes, Boston was glad to have banked points from these opportunities. These are some of the highlights from the game.
Here we have a throwback Avery Bradley play. He might not be guarding ball-handlers the second they cross half-court anymore, but his aggressive on-ball defense is still something to watch.
He starts off absolutely hounding Derrick Rose. Rose picks up his dribble and looks to dump the ball off, but Bradley is sticking right to him. He blocks the ball right when it leaves Rose's hand and starts a fast break.
This next play is an example of Bradley executing his assignment perfectly.
Jonas Jerebko slides to give help, leaving an opening for Pau Gasol to get the ball. Bradley rotates over and breaks up the pass. He battles with Gasol then drops back to get the steal when Pau throws a desperation pass. Bradley's quickness is key here. He can dart in to disrupt plays, and then pop back without losing his original man. His physical gifts and defensive awareness make him an important off-ball defender for the Celtics.
Bradley wasn't the only one getting steals last night either. Jae Crowder notched three on the night. Crowder's all around game might be garnering more attention this season, but his calling card is still defense. This play is an example of his skills.
He fights under the pick by Aaron Brooks to stay with Jimmy Butler. Butler's already in the paint by time Crowder catches up to him. Jae isn't content to just let the big guys deal with Butler though. When Butler rises up to shoot, Crowder swipes the ball out. After the ensuing scramble, Avery Bradley comes out with the ball. By all accounts, Crowder was pretty sick yesterday too. You have to love seeing a guy turn in such a gutsy performance in a big game like that.
You can't talk about Boston's defense without mentioning Marcus Smart. He only had one steal on the night, but it was a good one.
It combines two of his best defensive skills, busting through screens and ripping the ball out. Tommy Heinsohn just starts laughing in amazement when Smart makes these plays now. I can't think of a much better compliment than that.
The biggest surprise of the night might have been Jared Sullinger coming away with three steals. He's not exactly known for his pickpocketing skills, but Sully stripped the ball from Pau Gasol numerous times last night. Sure he may have frustrated people with his shot selection. However, creating turnovers like this can make you forget about a few bad shots.
When you don't score at an elite level, you have to manufacture points in different ways. Forcing turnovers is a nice way to disrupt the other team's offense, while setting up good looks for your own team. With the Celtics still looking for consistency on the offensive end, their opportunistic defense will need to keep making plays like these.