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Kristaps Porzingis has found ‘paradise’ with Celtics defense

Kristaps Porzingis spoke glowingly about the Celtics defense and the competitive mindset so far this season.

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

On Monday night, the Boston Celtics tallied their third win of the season over the Washington Wizards in a 126-107 blowout at Capital One Arena. Boston never trailed in the game, and it was a wire-to-wire dominant performance on both sides of the court. For Kristaps Porzingis, it was a homecoming to remember since moving to greener pastures.

“It felt good, again, as I said in the morning,” said Porzingis on returning to D.C. “Good emotions, remembering all of the relationships I have from here, and even now just talking to Kuz and Deni outside.” Both Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija both inked long-term deals over the past few months to stay in Washington, and played alongside Porzingis after his trade from the Mavericks.

“We have that type of bond,” said Porzingis. “I don’t think we’re ever going to lose it. We’re going to see each other after five years and it’s going to be the same banter. So definitely from the players side and also the staff and everybody here, it’s a lot of great relationships. This was home for a year and a half, so definitely some good, good memories from here.”

Since leaving Washington via trade, Porzingis has found himself at home in Boston so far this season, playing a massive part of the Celtics’ hot start to the year. Boston has jumped out to a 3-0 start in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1975-1977, and they’ve done so by playing intensely on both sides of the ball. For a team that was guilty of playing down to their competition, this new Celtics roster has emerged with a different poise, intensity, and determined execution.

“I think that was the main focus,” said Porzingis on the win over Washington. “Coming out and not playing down to any team’s level. Just playing to our level, coming out and being aggressive, and being hungry no matter who’s in front of us. Of course, it’s much easier to get going against the Knicks or the Heat, but that’s why today was almost like a bigger challenge for us.” In a season of 82 games, it’s easy to overlook opponents, but it’s the great teams that respect every team and bring the same competitiveness night in and night out.

“‘Can we come out and be aggressive from the beginning and not playing to that kind of game?’ and we did that,” said Porzingis. “Of course we can still look at the game and pick out moments where we can get better, but overall we did what we were supposed to do and I think we have the right mindset on this team.”

A big part of that competitive mindset has led to Boston further honing their defensive edge even further, with new additions Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis bringing their own brands of impactful defense to the mix. The results have been a daunting interior presence, an uptick in defensive rebounds, and a Boston block party kicked off by the new kids on the block.

In a small sample size, Boston is tied with Indiana for defensive rebounds per game (38), second behind Philadelphia for blocks per game (7.7), and first in opponents points in the paint per game (36) according to NBA Stats. Holiday and Porzingis are tied for blocks per game with two apiece, and the Celtics have looked all the better for it.

“I think I’m being utilized in a really good way,” said Porzingis. “I’m really close to the rim most of the time, I’m on a non-shooter most of the time, and I’m able to help my teammates the as much as I can from the last line. And then having D-White and Jrue Holiday as the two guards. They’re top, top defenders in this league, and we all know that. Having them two and JT and JB. For me, that’s paradise right there. I’m just on the last line and helping those guys, but they already do so much of the work that it just makes my life easy.”

While it still may be early on in the season and there’s many games left to be played, the Celtics are playing on a high level and demonstrating why they made the shrewd trades they did this past offseason. It feels like Boston is only just scratching the surface of their potential as well.

“Honestly, I’m still kinda working my way back into really good shape,” said Porzingis, “I’m not there yet. I didn’t have a great summer because I had to miss the World Cup and I’m still getting there. But so far, I’m enjoying playing with these guys. Honestly this is a really, really talented team and I think I fit really well with these guys and it’s been pretty smooth to get adjusted to playing with these guys. But I think in terms of my game, I still think I’m gonna get much, much better.”

Boston will get another chance to build on their hot start tonight as they take on the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden, 7:30 PM EST tipoff.

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