Simple as That: C's Revert to Defensive Roots

WALTHAM, Mass. – You hear Doc Rivers say it during every postseason: “Keep it simple.”

That motto has helped the Boston Celtics to a very successful half-decade of basketball since Kevin Garnett arrived in town back in 2007. The simplicity of Boston’s system has allowed players of all statures to succeed, from a Hall-of-Famer like Garnett to a former D-Leaguer like Greg Stiemsma.

Boston especially likes to keep things simple on defense while it is shutting opposing offenses down. But the only thing that was simple Tuesday night was Miami’s process of putting the ball through the basket.

Celtics Defense

The Boston Celtics' defense allowed many easy baskets Tuesday night, but the team plans on bouncing back immediately.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The Celtics looked disjointed throughout the season opener and lost 120-107 to the Heat in Miami. The Heat picked Boston apart on nearly every possession and wound up shooting 54.4 percent from the field. There wasn’t much to like at the defensive end if you were a Celtics fan.

“What really upset us is that every key guy on their team got every shot he wanted the whole night, and that’s a bad defensive night,” Rivers said on Thursday.

He regurgitated many of Tuesday night's postgame comments during Thursday’s media availability . He did, however, make a fresh claim that he was the culprit for Boston’s lack of defensive cohesion.

“From a coach’s standpoint, we had way too much time to prepare for it and we put way too much stuff in their head,” Rivers admitted while speaking of his players. “I thought they were thinking more than playing on instinct.”

That was quite evident while watching the C’s play. Their defensive performance was a stark contrast to what we’ve seen in past seasons and even what we saw during this year’s preseason. Opponents shot just 41.6 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from 3-point range against Boston in eight preseason contests, but the Heat made 54.4 percent of their shots and half of their 3s Tuesday night.

Everyone who watched had to have been wondering the same thing: What is going on with Boston’s defense? Rivers answered that question Thursday afternoon with simplicity as he described some ill-advised complexity.

“We had too many coverages,” he said. “We are a simplistic defensive team. It’s a system, but when you start having them show on one, trap on another, go on another, no one’s playing at full speed because they’re not sure what they’re doing.”

Instead, players were thinking about where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing. This is a read-and-react league, and the Celtics did neither Tuesday night.

Even Celtics veterans like Garnett and Rajon Rondo weren’t processing the game on the fly. They were not themselves, and Rondo admitted as much after Thursday’s practice.

“It wasn’t just [new] guys, it was everyone,” said Rondo. “It was myself, Kevin. We were thinking a lot. For a stretch of the third quarter I was thinking too much.”

Boston’s coaches convened after Tuesday’s loss and did some thinking of their own. They came to the conclusion that the C’s needed to return to their defensive roots immediately.

It’s always better to realize a mistake before it’s too late. The Celtics are only 0-1, with 81 games remaining on their schedule. There is plenty of time to right the ship, and the team looks forward to doing that tomorrow night.

Said Rondo, “We just have to find a way to get better, and we will, starting tomorrow.”

Simple, isn’t it?