If the Boston Celtics were planning on displaying any complacency as they begin defense of their NBA championship, it hasn't showed up yet.
Playing the same outstanding defense that paved the way to the franchise's 17th NBA title in June, the Celtics will look to extend their winning streak to five games on Monday when they host the Atlantic Division rival Toronto Raptors.
Even with the offensive talents of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Boston's hallmark last season was a defense that held opponents to 90.3 points per game. The Celtics (6-1) led the league in field-goal percentage defense (.419) and 3-point percentage defense (.316).
Boston allowed even fewer points per game in its run to the championship (88.8), and appears to be picking up right where it left off. The Celtics are allowing just 86.7 ppg through their first seven games, a number that's sparked by a field-goal percentage defense (.375) that's far and away the best in the league.
Their latest impressive defensive effort came Sunday on the same floor where they clinched the Eastern Conference title last season. Boston limited Detroit to just 34.7 percent from the field and used a 30-10 second quarter to coast to an 88-76 win over the Pistons.
"(The defense was) the best of the year, by far," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
While the trio of Garnett, Pierce and Allen have been dubbed Boston's "Big Three," the Celtics have gotten some outstanding contributions from their bench over the past two games, led by guard Tony Allen.
He's averaging 18 points in his last two games, and the Boston bench averaged 43.5 points in the two victories.
Six Celtics - including two reserves - average at least 9.0 points.
"Our bench has been phenomenal," Rivers said. "We've started out slow in three or four games, but the energy of the bench has been tremendous. There isn't one guy that carries them."
Toronto (4-2), on the other hand, has been carried by Chris Bosh. The three-time All-Star is third in the league in scoring, averaging 26.7 points - 10.5 more than any other Raptor.
Bosh has led the team in scoring in five of six games, and turned in his best overall effort on Sunday at Charlotte. Bosh scored 30 points - 14 in the fourth quarter - and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds in Toronto's 89-79 win over the Bobcats.
"My teammates do a great job of finding the open guy," Bosh said. "That's what we're taught to do, and that's where we make our bread and butter. If we see a guy open, we have to get it to him."
Jose Calderon has done a better job than anyone in the Eastern Conference of getting his teammates the ball in position to score. He's averaging a conference-high 9.3 assists and has a 5.6 assist-to-turnover ratio after leading the league in that category (5.38) last season.
Calderon was superb in his last trip to the TD Banknorth Garden, scoring 24 points and dishing out 13 assists in a 114-112 victory on Jan. 23. The 114 points were the most the Celtics gave up at home in 2007-08, and the Raptors shot 58.0 percent, including 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from 3-point range - the most efficient game any team had against Boston the entire season.
Toronto was tops in the East in 3-point percentage (.392) last season, and is hitting 44.7 percent from beyond the arc so far in 2008-09.
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