After some lackadaisical team defense in the first three games of the restart, the Celtics got back to their defense-first ways with a 149-115 win over the JV Brooklyn Nets. It was the complete team defensive showing Boston needed after Coach Brad Stevens emphasized the importance of defense in his latest post-game comments.
Even if this Nets team was undermanned, the Celtics looked like a new, revitalized unit after the Tuesday night loss to Miami. Everyone looked active and alert, hustling and rotating over on switches and creating turnovers to get the offense pushing in transition.
This first early clip is a great example of Gordon Hayward rotating over weak side to disrupt and steal the ball from Jarrett Allen rolling to the basket. Hayward sees that “mismatch” with Smart and Allen, so he shifts over to help. The Celtics forced 13 first half turnovers and never gave the Nets the rhythm to settle into any kind of set offense.
Jaylen Brown also stepped up huge in this game sticking his nose everywhere, showing off his two-way ability. He fought through screens and stayed in front of the ball-handler all night long. Even if a screen gave the offensive guy a lane, Brown was coming up behind to strip the ball away or cause interference at the rim.
One of the brightest spots of the night came from rookie Romeo Langford. He had one of his best games for the Celtics playing at a high level on both sides of the court. His defense was pesky and tenacious which gave him the opportunity to get big minutes with Tatum in early foul trouble.
Both of these clips show how his active hands resulted in two steals. Langford has the quickness and athleticism to stay in front of guards which has come a long way since his time at Indiana. If he can channel this and have it moving forward, Langford will be a perfect compliment to a stout defensive backcourt for the Celtics.
In this longer clip from former CelticsBlogger Chris Grenham, you see a near perfect execution of team defense, running the Nets off the arc and staying in front. Jaylen starts by staying high, making the ball handler never have an opportunity to go downhill or even draw over another defender. It is followed up by perfectly executed switches from both Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis leading to a Jarret Allen miss.
This is the type of halfcourt defense the Celtics are looking for: pic.twitter.com/UJObV6Zm5W— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) August 6, 2020
This Nets team is definitely not the same caliber as Milwaukee, Portland, or Miami. However, it is what the Celtics needed to refresh themselves after a few sluggish games. With Jaylen Brown leading the charge, the team looked like the pesky defense-first team that will be a threat going forward in the playoffs. Stevens has said multiple times that the defense starts the offense, and that is what was on display in this one. If Boston channels this performance and takes it to much tougher lineups, then they can compete among the best.