Operation Shutdown

As mentioned in the cover story I recently did about the Celtics, the way they play defense reminds me of an NFL team. Not an all-time great like the 85 Bears, ‘00 Ravens or ‘02 Bucs either. Just a regular really good defense like the 06 Steelers or all the recent Patriot teams. There’s a distinct difference.

Great defenses totally undress their competitors and dominate them physically and mentally. Whether road or at home, no matter the stakes or the greatness of the other team, the great ones just blow mofo’s off the ball. A just really good defense will allow other teams to score, build momentum and think they have a chance to win the game. These types of teams don’t have get shutouts that often and will even allow teams to score a couple of touchdowns and keep it close but will ultimately get a big stop. The Celtics, regardless of how it turned out allowed the Hawks, Cavs, Pistons and even the Lakers to think it was all good. They were a possession away from losing to the Cavs and at times during this postseason played a maddeningly frustrating brand of basketball. Other teams brought their swagger to the court and blotted out the sunlight that the Celtics created in winning 66 games in the regular season. They had to think that they were gonna eventually break free of this team advance in their championship goal. But they didn’t. They couldn’t.

This Celtics team is unique in the way they are constructed in that no matter what happens scoring-wise for them they are gonna keep you under control offensively and eventually beat you. They differ from the recent championship Spurs because even though they were great defensively they could often score at will. Tim Duncan is not only a superior defender but a superior offensive player as well. They got theirs and you didn’t get yours and that was it. With the Celtics, they might not get theirs. Kevin Garnett is not a lights out scorer, he’s not going for 35 points. And he may even bail your defense out by taking more jumpers than playing on the block. But he limits the hell out the guy he’s playing.

And his help-side d is remarkable, he makes up for whatever his teammates miss and on top of that is a dominating rebounder. His ability has allowed Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to shine as defenders, something that seemed absurd as recent as last season. When you add Rondo’s speedy defensive pressure and James Posey’s athletic smothering and PJ Brown paint toughness to the mix, this team became a team full of guys who were gonna get key stops at some point in the game or series. You are not gonna outscore them. Coach Rivers allowed his assistant Tom Thibodeaux to be his Buddy Ryan type and his schemes have been amazing. Looking back its obvious that Lebron much like Kobe now, wasn’t just having bad shooting days. They were getting shut down.