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Topic Tuesday: How concerned are you with the Celtics defense?

The Celtics haven’t been able to get a lot of stops this year. Is it a trend or a blip?

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Last season, the Celtics made it to the NBA Finals based on a foundation of the best defense in the league. It has only been 4 games into the season (which resulted in 3 wins) but thus far Boston’s defense has been far from the best in the league.

Through 4 games of the season (small sample size), the Celtics rank 24th in the league in Defensive Rating (117.0) and are giving up 116.3 points per game (ranked 12th in the league). In fact, they haven’t held a team under 100 points all year.

So what gives? Is it the personnel? Obviously losing Robert Williams III hurts and the drop off from him to Noah Vonleh is significant. Malcolm Brogdon playing a larger role makes the Celtics skew smaller but he’s supposed to be a quality defender in his own right. And don’t forget that the Celtics played high quality defense even at their lowest points last year.

We knew that rebounding would be an issue with this group. Offensive rebounds and second chance points are killer for any defense. But it goes beyond that. Great perimeter defenders are getting blown by with regularity.

Is it the scheme or system? Obviously with Rob out you can’t rely on the double bigs, but you should still be able to be a switch-heavy defense. It makes sense to work in some drop coverage as well because you can’t get too predictable. Is the team still getting used to the subtle changes that Joe Mazzulla has had to install? Or is there something fundamental that Joe is struggling with as a first time head coach?

Or does it just boil down to effort? The Celtics may be suffering from reading their own headlines syndrome. Being the best defense last year doesn’t mean anything to the teams trying to score on you in the here and now. If you don’t put in the effort, you will be humbled. The offense (for the most part) has looked better this season. Has there been an emphasis on that side of the ball which is taking away focus and effort on the defensive side?

Regardless, Joe Mazzulla faces his first real test as the head coach of the Celtics. Will he be able to hold this team accountable? Can he put the team in the right position to win? And will the team do their part by putting in the right effort on that side of the floor?

So what do you think? Is this small sample size theater and a small bump in the road? Or a growing trend that needs to be addressed if this team has designs on a return trip to the Finals?

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