Since the beginning of the season, there’s been the insinuation that the Boston Celtics are at least one big man short of putting together a complete roster that’s devoid of weaknesses.
While pundits and fans try to speculate on how to upgrade the position, the C’s current collection of big men are displaying that all the talk about what that unit lacks continues to just be hearsay.
The Celtics big men in Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis continued to make a significant impact Friday as they helped Boston defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-117, and extend the team’s winning streak to five games.
Kanter nearly notched a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds in the win, while Theis scored nine points. Perhaps even more important than their offensive contributions were Theis and Kanter’s ability to solidify Boston’s interior defense. Both Theis and Kanter blocked two shots as the C’s swatted away 10 Cavs attempts in total.
“I think we’ve been doing an amazing job,” Kanter said. “Not just me, (Daniel) Theis, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Vinny (Poirier) and Tack(o) (Fall). We’ve been doing an amazing job protecting the rim. I think we are a top five defense in the NBA right now. So, shout out to all the haters out there.”
Theis, who leads the Celtics with 1.5 blocks per game, continues to be a deft shot blocker and one the Celtics desperately need since they trot out undersized units.
And while Theis made a solid block on a Colin Sexton drive that resulted in a bucket the other way, another defensive play from Theis that didn’t end up in the box score should be just as highly valued.
Early in the second quarter, Theis came over from the weakside to contest a Kevin Porter Jr. take at the rim. Instead of fouling, like Theis seemingly always does as he picked up five fouls again, he stayed vertical to alter the shot that fell of the rim. While the blocks are nice to package in a highlight-reel, Theis needs to challenge more without fouling, especially with Robert Williams and Poirier out injured.
As much as Kanter gets torn to pieces for his defense (I’m certainly a culprit of that. I think Kanter’s pick-and-roll defense is a major liability), he does show flashes of being a reliable defender. Versus the Cavs, Kanter swallowed up a Sexton drive and played terrific, sound defense before stealing the ball away from Tristan Thompson and setting the C’s up on a fast break.
But where Kanter has made his biggest impact is on the offensive glass as he can turn lost possessions into successful ones. While offensive rebounding has been devalued for getting back on defense in today’s NBA, it might be Kanter’s best attribute as he corralled six offensive rebounds, which was one short of his season-high.
“Whenever I’m out there with them, I’m always telling them, ‘Hey, shoot it with confidence. If you miss it, I’m going to go get every offensive rebound,’” Kanter said. “Every time I’m out there they shoot it with confidence and if they miss it, I got them.”