Stevens saw another lackadaisical defensive effort unfold right in front of him over two-plus hours and there was no way for the mild-mannered Stevens to sugarcoat the performance.
The Spurs shot 56.1 percent from the field, but what frustrated Stevens the most was Boston’s ghost-like interior defensive presence. San Antonio had a field day attacking the hoop for easy buckets as it shot 27-of-33 from inside the paint.
“The No. 1 thing in my eyes is we’re not holding down the fort,” said Stevens, who added that the Celtics did guard the perimeter well, limiting the Spurs to an 8-for-28 showing from beyond the arc. “We’re not guarding the lane. We’re not protecting the rim. We’re not at the basket. I’m not talking about our bigs. I’m talking about everybody.”
With San Antonio carving up the Celtics defense, Stevens made the rare decision to go away from man-to-man defense and set up in a 2-1-2 zone in the third quarter. The Celtics stuck with the zone defense for an elongated period as it yielded results and helped the Celtics chip away at a double-digit deficit.
But for Stevens, the success of the zone defense, which was a break glass in case of emergency strategy, didn’t take away from the fact that Boston’s defense was porous for most of the game.
“The zone helped us. It got us back in the game,” Stevens said. “But we were going to zone out of necessity because we couldn’t stop a nosebleed.”
Stevens added: “I’d like to be able to play multiple defenses and multiple defenses well, but I think to do that, you have to play one well. We got a lot of work to do.”
The Celtics defense has been a hot topic over the course of the team’s first 17 games. Boston isn’t exhibiting the same intensity and focus on the defensive end that has been a staple of Celtics’ teams under Stevens.
And right now, Stevens’ biggest task is getting that to change.
“There’s a lot of things that we have to clean up,” Stevens said. “It has to be a DNA, it has to part of your makeup. It is so important to winning that we just got to make it even more important on every posession.”