Boston Blocks Out Brooklyn in Record-Tying Fashion
BOSTON – Protect the rim at all costs.
That was Boston’s defensive game plan Monday night against a Brooklyn Nets team that leads the Eastern Conference in drives per game (54.2).
The result: a franchise record-tying 16 blocked shots for the Celtics and a 112-104 win at TD Garden.
“They just keep on going to the basket,” Al Horford noted after logging a season-high six swats. “That's just what they do. We knew coming in that they attack the paint and our guys did a good job of waiting until the last second to impact the ball. We had some success with that.”
“Some success” may be a bit of an understatement.
Boston set the tone early with 11 blocks during the first half alone, with Horford swatting five of those. By game’s end, four of Horford’s teammates had also logged multiple-block efforts, with Aron Baynes collecting three, along with Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum tallying two apiece.
“It’s huge,” Smart said of how the the shot-blocking impacts the team’s energy. “It deters teams from coming into the paint and they settle for stuff and things that they’re not used to. Shooting the ball with guys that they don’t want to shoot it. So that just shows the effort that we had on our mind from the start of the game.”
That collective mindset, according to Baynes, is one that stems from Horford’s approach.
“It starts with Al,” said Horford’s frontcourt mate. “He came out and sets the tone in the middle there for us defensively and it’s definitely fun to go out there and be on the right side of that … When he’s going out there and setting that standard for us.”
Horford finished with one more block than Brooklyn had as an entire team and also finished one swat shy of his career-high. Though, he wasn’t doing anything out of his norm.
“I'm always just trying to impact,” said Horford, who also logged his third consecutive double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “So, I may not get a blocked shot, but I'm going to try to alter a shot. That's usually what I go for.”
The collective shot-blocking effort wasn’t an anomaly, either. Back in mid-November, the Celtics fell one shy of the franchise mark (16 blocks vs. Chicago on Jan. 21, 1983) when they swatted 15 shots against the Phoenix Suns.
Prior to this season, the team had only reached that mark twice in franchise history, according to basketball-reference.com, and it had not reached 15 since Nov. 14, 1990 against Charlotte.
“I think the bottom line is that our bigs usually play with good position and our wings do a good job of staying in play,” coach Brad Stevens explained. “I’d say that those are the two things that allow you the chance to block shots, unless you’re just jumping all over the place, and that usually ends up in fouls more than blocks. But our position has been pretty good and our bigs, Al and Baynes, do a great job of waiting for the ball to come to them.”
By taking such a patient approach, the C’s were able to accomplish their goal of protecting the rim against the top driving team in the East. Tying the franchise mark in blocked shots was just the cherry on top of the win.