fb-pixelDefense depressed in this season’s hot Celtics start - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Defense depressed in this season’s hot Celtics start

Marcus Smart and the Celtics are having a ball again this season, but their hot start bears little resemblance to the defensive juggernaut that reached the NBA Finals a season ago.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Last season, the Celtics stormed to the Finals behind the strength of their top-ranked defense. This season their approach has been somewhat different, as their top-ranked offense has carried them to the best record in the NBA. But that has coincided with some clear regression on the other side of the ball.

Boston was surrendering 111.8 points per 100 possessions, midpack at 16th in the NBA, before Wednesday’s 125-112 home victory over Dallas.

“It’s coming along,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I think it’s definitely gotten a lot better. Mid-range is still hurting us a little bit. We’ve got to do a better job contesting 3-point shots, getting a second jumper, giving up a few open ones.”


The Celtics were allowing opponents to shoot 46.5 percent on 15-19 footers entering Wednesday, the third-worst mark in the league.

“Defensive rebounding has been good, and I thought for a little while we were doing a good job forcing some turnovers, and we’ve got to just kind of stick with that and maybe get some more,” Mazzulla said. “But overall I like our effort. I like our attention to detail, for the most part. We just have to continue to grow in that.”

Finding backcourt balance

Celtics guard Marcus Smart returned Monday after missing two games because of right ankle swelling. Prior to that, guard Malcolm Brogdon missed four games due to hamstring tightness.

Mazzulla said minor injuries have made it challenging to fully evaluate his backcourt options, but he’s comfortable with the progress.

“I have a good feel for what they do well and what the lineups look like,” Mazzulla said. “We haven’t been fully healthy a lot, so I think [we’re] getting into that rhythm. At the same time, seeing how the game goes. Because of our depth, we have the ability to play a couple of different ways during the game and just trying to see what that looks like and how it pertains to the matchup as well.”


Tatum’s ankle OK

Tatum delivers a fourth-quarter dunk Wednesday night for two of his team-high 37 points.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was cleared to play Wednesday after being listed as questionable with a sprained ankle and was his usual self, with a team-high 37 points. “I think he did what he had to do to be ready and felt good,” Mazzulla said . . . Two-way contract center Mfiondu Kabengele was called up, but did not play . . . On Tuesday, the Celtics and Xfinity hosted a Thanksgiving event at Brighton Bowl for underserved families in the Boston area. Mazzulla, Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, and Blake Griffin met with families from the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Families before doing arts & crafts and taking part in a bowling tournament with them.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.