It was all Celtics on Wednesday night as the team traveled back to Boston and hosted the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics coasted to a 126-107 win with a 42-point career night for Jaylen Brown, but it was the team’s defensive performance that was another major takeaway.
Coming into this game, the Celtics defense ranked in the bottom five of the league. Against the Grizzlies, they created 22 turnovers and flipped the switch on the defensive end. It sparked transition offense and led to 36 points off those turnovers. This helped the Celtics take over this game early and keep control.
Even without Ja Morant, the Grizzlies were completely shut down for large portions of this game. The Celtics tallied up 17 steals and 11 blocks and had an answer for everything the Grizzlies tried on offense. The early game plan was to pressure the ball handlers instantly as Memphis do not have many creators outside of Morant.
After the first few games, there was cause for concern, but they got back to what they are known for: high intensity, constant on-ball pressure, and switching around the arc that stopped the Grizzlies’ wings from getting the ball in space and shoot.
This first turnover of the game is a great display of the team’s mindset: maximum pressure on the ball handler. Boston keyed in on Memphis scorers like Kyle Anderson. Jaylen Brown applies pressure and then Robert Williams shifts over to help around the rim creating the bad pass.
A very similar defensive possession took place here when Jaylen once again pressures Anderson as soon as the ball gets to him. JB pokes it free and has a clear path for an easy transition bucket. As Brad Stevens always says, “good defense creates good offense.”
This next clip shows more of the team defense that led the Celtics to the win. Jonas Valanciunas plays a more bully ball style when he gets the ball, so he attempted to back down Rob Williams in the paint. Jeff Teague saw this opportunity to help on the back side and swiped the ball away in a beautiful display of double-teaming defense. Once again, this leads to an easy transition bucket.
Speaking of Robert Williams, he had himself a block party, tallying up four blocks. He has improved drastically this season with his footwork and knowing when to help on the weak side. That first clip shows Tyus Jones having a lane to the basket after he spun past Teague. However, Williams sees this and rotates over to swat the easy layup away. This is something he was just a little late on last season.
In that same thought, his footwork in the second clip would never have held up last season. In this game, he stayed in front of players driving to the basket and impacted their shot each time. It was a positive sign for him individually and the team defense as a whole.
The Celtics desperately needed a defensive performance like this one. CelticsBlog own Keith Smith asked Stevens post game about impacting the ball, and he noted that “it’s our only chance of being a good defense. We’re small a lot, so we have to be good on the ball. We have to play this way to be good.” He also went on to mention how important Jeff Teague’s aggressiveness was as well. It will continue to be crucial as the team goes to a small lineup often. If they can continue to show out on defense, that will just vault this team to that next level.