Pregame Post-Ups: C’s Aim to Improve Perimeter D vs. Mitchell, Jazz

Friday, March 6 - Jazz at Celtics

Pregame – C’s Aim to Improve Perimeter D vs. Mitchell, Jazz

BOSTON – An area in which the Boston Celtics are looking to improve as they head down the final stretch of the regular season is their ability to defend drives from the perimeter. It’s a challenge with which they’ve grappled throughout the campaign, and particularly over the past week.

Entering Friday, Boston had allowed an opposing perimeter player to score at least 37 points in four consecutive games. It all started last Feb. 26 in Utah, where Jazz wing Donovan poured in 37 points during a Celtics win. That was followed by Rockets guard Russell Westbrook’s 41-point effort on Sunday, which was then followed by a career-high 51-point showing from Nets wing Caris LeVert on Tuesday, and most recently, there was Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton's career-high 41-point game on Wednesday.

“We’ve had that issue at times all through the year, not just the last couple of games,” Stevens pointed out Friday evening before hosting the Utah Jazz at TD Garden. “We’ve had moments when we’ve been OK at that, but we’ve gotta be better. The other day we were late to rotate, to challenge, in both of those games (against LeVert and Sexton) a couple of times, but we also got beat too directly off the dribble.”

The issue in itself is simple to understand.

“It can be any combination of things,” Stevens explained. “It can be an individual close-out gone wrong, it can be something that creates a scramble, it can be pick-and-roll defense where our bigs get beat, or it can be just a lack of rotation and help.”

Fixing the issue, however, is easier said than done. What it really comes down to is putting forth consistent effort and simply focusing on one defensive possession at a time. The C’s will look to do just that during Friday night’s rematch against Mitchell and the Jazz.

“Every play is its own unique entity and we have to get better at all of it,” Stevens said. “And hopefully we will. This is quite a challenge tonight because they have so many guys who can put the ball on the floor. There’s so many threats on their team that can pull up at the three, and that makes it really hard to guard.”

It will also be a challenge because the Celtics are missing two of their best perimeter defenders in Jaylen Brown (strained hamstring) and Gordon Hayward (knee contusion). It will be up to the rest of the guys to correct the problem, as they try to complete a season sweep of the Jazz.

- Taylor Snow

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