Rondo Or No, Celts Need More Defense

BROOKLYN — The Boston Celtics played without Rajon Rondo on Thursday. Not coincidentally, the Celtics lost to the Brooklyn Nets, 102-97.

Rondo was missed, especially early in the first quarter and late in the fourth, when the Celtics’ offense looked disjointed without its point guard. Leandro Barbosa played far too many minutes (30-plus) for a guy who doesn’t know the team’s plays, and the Celtics’ scorers had to work harder than usual for their points.

But the correlation between Rondo’s absence and the final score wasn’t quite as strong as you might think, and their issues on Thursday went beyond point guard. All you need to know is that the Nets grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, and it was the third time in the last four games that the Celtics have allowed 16 or more offensive boards.

Rebounding issues are just the latest problem with the Celtics’ defense, which ranks 22nd in the league through Thursday. The Nets, with all the defensive issues they have, are ranked higher. And only one team — the Miami Heat, perhaps ironically — has regressed more defensively than the Celtics.

Most regressed defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions)

Team 2011-12 Rank 2012-13 Rank Diff.
Miami 97.1 4 104.8 27 +7.7
Boston 95.5 2 102.6 22 +7.1
Dallas 99.7 8 103.7 25 +4.0
Phoenix 103.8 23 106.4 29 +2.7
Cleveland 106.0 26 107.8 30 +1.8

Oh, but the Celtics always start slow and get their act together by the playoffs, right? No, not really. Last year, when players were out of shape in the wake of the lockout, that was the case. But in the four years prior, the Celtics were the fastest starters in the league, racking up an incredible 94-14 record in games played before Christmas.

This group is different, and they’ll likely improve as the season goes on. The new faces need to learn and adjust to the system. But Thursday’s problems were as much about effort as they were about learning curves.

“We didn’t make any adjustments,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said about his team’s improvement on the glass in the second half. “We just fought more, we got into bodies, we helped less, we didn’t allow guys to beat us off the dribble as much. And I thought we did a better job.”

Still, when the Nets were scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter, the resistance they faced was not what we’ve come to expect from the Celtics. Joe Johnson got to his spots a little too easily down the stretch, and Brook Lopez got one more put-back on a critical possession.

Don’t get it twisted. The Celtics need Rondo … desperately. Playing without him is a problem, not just because he’s a brilliant point guard, but because he’s the only point guard on the Celtics’ roster. Barbosa and Courtney Lee were point guards by name only on Thursday.

But as much as they need to get their point guard back, the Celtics need to get their defense in order. They currently rank 23rd in forcing turnovers and 26th in defending the 3-point line. Those are two categories in which they ranked in the top five last season.

Asked by TNT’s Craig Sager about Rondo’s absence after the first quarter, Rivers said, “We can still play defense, which we’re not.”

Over the last few seasons, Rondo’s presence on the floor has meant more offensively than defensively. And when the Celtics went 24-10 after the All-Star break last season, it was all about defense. They actually ranked 26th offensively after the break, but were over eight points per 100 possessions better than the league average defensively.

Much was made this preseason about Rondo officially taking over the reins as the Celtics’ leader, but the Celtics don’t necessarily need him to get back to being an elite defensive team. They’ll gladly welcome him back when his sprained right ankle is healthy though. While their next two games — vs. Toronto on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday — seem very winnable without their point guard, Rivers says that the opponent won’t determine his point guard’s status.

“If he’s ready to play whenever we play again, he’ll play,” Rivers said. “If he’s not, he won’t. We’ll just keep moving.”



  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    PS: Sorry for all the posting. Apparently, there may be a “text size” limit to a single post, so I may need to break up my post into 2 or 3 chunks. πŸ˜‰

  2. BobbySimpson says:

    Should never have signed Shaq a few years ago. Could have got a defensive centre or even another point guard who would be in the offensive set this year, could have even gotten further last year

  3. cha lee says:

    celtics needs a true, legit center.

  4. Mac says:

    Why not Darko, he really showed something in the pre-season, i think he really can play at the C

  5. EJ says:

    True.. But I think that Garnett is better at C though… If they are goinng 2 throw Sullinger in the game they atleast should give Melo an oppurtunity

  6. joey boy says:

    get AMARE in KNICKS they dont need him anyway,
    sign KENYON MARTIN and CHRIS ANDERSEN for rebounding purposes…

  7. kelcey mccray says:

    i agree they need a point guard and need another rebound er. s

  8. d.mack says:

    Go get greg oden and put him under k.gz wing

  9. Dice says:

    They need a player who can rebound well!
    they signed Collins & Darko.. why they did not go for Kenyon Martin?

  10. Amazo says:

    stfu, barbosa did a good job on dwill

  11. David says:

    Jared Sullinger is terrible and he has started 3 games! He has no stamina, no athleticism, he’s completely static and only a decent rebounder. I really think Greg Stiemsma had much, much more potential and it was a mistake to let him go instead of taking the chance of giving him more playing time and move Kevin Garnett back to PF.

    • celtic533 says:

      I completely agree with you about keeping Stiemsma. That guy is an elite shotblocker and you might say i’m crazy for saying this but he is a better blocker than Dwight,Ibaka,or any of the other elite defenders.I f you remember,he had 6 blocks on his NBA debut.However he wasn’t a great rebounder but still it would help the inside D better than a scrub name Fab Melo who is in the D-League rite now.

  12. blacklabel67k says:

    I like how when the Celtics are doing things well, they keep any news about them off to the side or near the bottom of the page.

    When they are having issues, BAM, they slap it all over the front page. You guys are so biased it’s hilarious.

    Kind of like that garage call against Barbosa against the Nets. Can’t sell tickets in Brooklyn if the Nets arent getting their wins!

    What a joke.

    • Myself says:

      True that, I myself was surprised when I saw an actual article about Celtics. Then I started to read it and couldn’t help gbut shake my head, the first time in long time since they’ve written bout this team it is about how wack their D is. It’s just funny to me cos it’s obvious how much they bandwagon the Lakers and some other teams. It’s so pathetic I have to laugh. But oh well, let em keep going on, they are going to be doing a 360 and changing stories soon, like they always do

  13. bu says:

    JimD54, don’t get me wrong, he’s a good defensive anchor for Celts. But pl ck out Perkins’ performance as a Thunder, as well as consider the money he was demanding. Remember, he was outrebounded by elite centres in the league & has little offense. Ainge has to make a choice. If Green was healthy last season, while all other Celts were healthy, they’d hv won the championship already.

    This Celtics team has too many new pieces & not used to the defensive schemes. Look how much more effective they are with the original 4 starters on the floor with verteran Terry. Rivers also was trying to give more playing time to the new guys & Green early on so that they can have a chance to learn the system during game situation, & NOT in practise. Not many coaches dare to do this as they can easily lose their job with mediocre results after 10 games.

  14. Ben says:

    They have too many shooting guards: Bradley, Lee, Barbosa and Terry. And the best defender amongst those (who is also the only one that was a Celtic last year) is out until December.

  15. The Celtics still have not found a player to fill the huge frontcourt defensive void left from the Kendrick Perkins trade. Without another big body to help their defensive leader, Garnett, to allow him to roam and be a help defender, Boston’s defense is going to struggle to stay consistent. Of course, Avery Bradley’s return will help on the perimeter, but their defensive struggles are more related to interior defending and rebounding more than anything. My suggestion would be for them to make a trade for a true center to pair with KG in the frontcourt to shore themselves up on the defensive end. Fab Melo may take some time to develop, and the C’s window is just barely cracked enough for them to still think about contending for the eastern conference crown.

  16. Mohcel says:

    Proud of my C’s. Always fighting.

  17. JimD54 says:

    The Celtics need a Center, much like the one they gave away, that was the stupidest trade in Celtic history.

    • Me says:

      gtfoh how is perkins being utilized in Okc huh? the same way he was being utilized in Boston. Why? cos he’s Perkins, he doesn’t bring nothing new to the table. They have KG and Wilcox doing what Perk was doing at the time. Why else would OKC have brought in a real center in Ibaka? Not to diss Perk, I like the dude and his game but that’s real. Plus, does Miami have a center? nope hth did they win last year then? so as Rondo said last year The C’s will be just fine

  18. dattebayo says:

    Don’t know why the Celtics are so much worse on defense this year, for the Heat it’s simply effort and the championship hangover, Wade has the worst case of it. Against the Clippers he had Bledsoe on 1 possession, gave him a 12 foot midrange jumpshot and then stood and watched the ball. Bledsoe missed, rushed straight by Wade and got a putback of his own miss. All Wade had to do there was to take 2 steps to step in front of Bledsoe and they would have had the rebound. Then he does the routine iso – throwing up a brick – complain to the ref about the no call – not gettin back on defense – move in almost every game. There is a reason Wayne Ellington shot 7-11 from deep against them, he had too many open looks.