Celtics Eying Defensive Progression in Preseason Game 2

ORLANDO – The preseason is all about progression for NBA teams. Tonight, while taking on the Magic in Orlando, the Boston Celtics want to see that progression on the defensive end of the floor.

While Boston’s preseason debut resulted in a victory, it was not without some troublesome signs on defense. The team allowed Charlotte to score 50 points in the paint and total 29 assists en route to 106 points. The top of Charlotte’s rotation seemed to get whatever it wanted, and wherever it wanted.

“I didn’t think our defensive presence was very good in Game 1,” Brad Stevens said at Boston’s shootaround Friday morning, “so it’s been a huge emphasis the last couple of days.”

The Celtics hope that their hard work will lead to a different result tonight against Orlando. Their goal is to provide significant resistance against a Magic team that has already won three games this preseason.

“I think especially be better defensively, impacting the ball a little more,” Gordon Hayward said of what he wants the team to accomplish. “Not letting the other team kinda dictate what they’re gonna do.”

The task of doing so starts with the Boston’s perimeter players and ends with the team’s bigs. Expect to see the team’s guards and wings apply much more ball pressure against Orlando than it did against Charlotte. That group, led by All-Defensive First Teamer Marcus Smart, is more than capable of impacting the ball.

The next step toward flipping the script on defense is to have the Celtics’ big men in the right place at the right time. There were many instances during the game against the Hornets in which Boston’s bigs were either not in the correct position, or simply did not communicate at a high enough level with their teammates. Those miscues led to shooting, driving and passing lanes for Charlotte’s guards and wings.

Boston’s defense will undoubtedly improve tonight if the guards pressure the ball and the bigs are in the correct position. The only question is whether or not they have grown enough over the last four-plus days to do so.

While defensive improvement is the top priority, multiple members of the team also pointed out to Celtics.com that they must decrease their turnovers tonight. Boston committed 23 turnovers against the Hornets, which is an uncommonly high number for a Stevens-coached team. The C’s should be better in this area tonight, as turnover counts typically drop for teams as the preseason wears on and teammates get to know one another’s tendencies.

It must be pointed out that none of the team’s players or coaches mentioned to the media Friday morning that their top priority is to win tonight’s game. They certainly would prefer to take down the Magic, but that isn’t the ultimate goal.

The top priority for this team is to progress from their first preseason performance, most notably on the defensive end. The win will take care of itself if they take care of that priority first.

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