By Khalid Salaam
I enjoy great defense. Always have. Probably because I was the guy on the court who played D too serious and disrupted the fun of a random Sat afternoon pick-up game. Since I’ve never had a great handle and was a average passer in order for me to stay on the court I had to block shots and get steals and body up and play D (basically my game is like Bruce Bowen or James Posey). So I’ve always appreciated it. That’s why this Celtics team was a team I liked and watched when I wasn’t watching the Sixers or Hornets. This years Celtics team plays great defense or at least did last night. Their 1st rd series with the Hawks damn near threw a monkey wrench in the game but they and we (meaning SLAM. We couldn’t have another playoffs cover fiasco like last year) survived.
Before I forget I want to give a shout-out to SLAM contributor Jonathan Evans, who assisted me greatly in this story. It’s a team story and with any story like this there are so many people to talk to and so many quotes to transcribe that your initial message can get lost. I talked to almost every player and Coach Rivers and they all seem really motivated. We discussed offensive sets a little but I wanted to stay on defense, just talking about the mentality they have and the system they utilize. Not saying this is the greatest defensive team of all time or anything (that’s the second three-peat Bulls. If not all time then at least of our generation) but the way they play is so hard, so exhaustive that I just get into it. Around the office today the consensus is that last nights slugfest between the Celtics and Cavs was an ugly, bad played game. I disagree.
It was played with intensity and there were few open shots or easy drives to the basket. I don’t think there was even 1 dunk last night was there? Z, Ben Wallace and Joe Smith had the paint on lock last night. That joint was like a road block. Plus Bron was shutting down Pierce like he was a rookie. On the other side, Posey played Lebron hard, KG was guarding the paint with energy (and even had some late game offensive heroics) and Perk was just putting a body on anything that moved. I don’t often like pretty boy ball and last night was one of those NFC East, 10-7 defensive battles. Last night was the reason why I wanted to do this Celtic piece and why I was excited to see them play like this in the postseason. They needed to play like this in a close game to validate themselves and create the momentum to play great D for the rest of the playoffs. In the story I tried to capture the psychology of the team and I feel confident I did that. Go check it out and tell me how you feel, I appreciate the feedback whether positive or negative. Also gotta shout out Lang for coming up with maybe his best story headline ever.