NBA

Al Horford.

Three reasons why the Boston Celtics have the best defence in the NBA

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The Boston Celtics are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Eastern Conference and have the best record in the NBA despite seeing a 16-game winning streak come to an end.

The C's are 17-3 and have dispatched every team that has come before them since losing their opening two games of the campaign.

This extraordinary run has been made possible because of their stellar defence. They boast the best defence in the league and put it to good effect in their most impressive win of the season against the Golden State Warriors last week.

They held the defending champions to just 88 points, which is their lowest points total since acquiring Kevin Durant.

Any team that can keep the league's most potent offence to below 90 points must be doing something special on the defensive end.

Here are three reasons why the Celtics have the league's top defence:

Position-less players

With today's NBA focused heavily on 'small ball', defending has become more difficult. Players are often matched up with bigger or smaller opponents depending on the position and it's making it harder to stick to defensive assignments.

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

Boston has been able to combat this by having multiple 'position-less' players that guard more than one position on the floor.

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others provide this function for the team. Their combination of length and size has made their defence so good.

Brown, in just his second year, and rookie Tatum have been huge in this regard and have slotted into the starting lineup seamlessly and have been among the catalysts for the team's defensive solidity.

“They utilise their length appropriately,” head coach Brad Stevens said, per NBA.com's David Aldridge.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

“They’re both long for their positions; I think that helps. So you’re not playing Jaylen at the three as much and Jayson at the four as much; you’re playing them at the two and the three.

"They can use that length; all of a sudden, Jaylen’s guarding a three man that’s seven feet tall, and it’s a little different. But the biggest thing is they work hard on technique and they work hard on film study every day.”

Al Horford

The engine behind the Celtics' defence and the man who makes it all work is Horford. He has been a defensive anchor and deserves to be an early frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.

The three-time All-Star is mobile, can switch onto multiple positions, is active on the boards, and constantly communicates with his teammates to make sure they're in the right spots.

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

He has been responsible for Boston successfully nullifying superstar opponents such as Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid.

Horford's defensive stats may not jump out at you - he's averaging just 0.6 blocks and 0.7 steals per game - but it's his timing, positioning and footwork against more nimble bigs that makes him an elite defender.

The veteran does all the little things required; he hustles, doesn't take plays off, boxes out, covers for teammates and carries out the coaching staff's plan to perfection.

When the anchor of the team is performing at this level, it makes things easy for the other players and inspires them to carry out their jobs just as diligently.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks

The likes of Kyrie Irving may get all the plaudits for work on the offensive end, but Horford is the key to Boston's excellent form and deserves his recognition.

Brad Stevens

The players go out and produce the goods but it wouldn't be possible without a head coach who creates a system that allows them to be successful.

Stevens is meticulous in his approach and his attention to detail when it comes to defending is why they have the league's stingiest rearguard.

The 41-year-old is the youngest coach in the NBA but is already among the best. Defences win championships and he constantly works on this aspect of the game with his players and preaches its importance.

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

“Brad’s made that very clear,” Irving said, “if the (defensive) effort’s not out there, if you’re not paying attention, if you’re not preparing the way we all should be preparing -- that goes from the head coach down to the 15th guy -- if you’re not preparing the way you should and perfecting your craft outside of the game, being very diligent, understanding our system, why it works, why we’re doing it, why the hell would you expect to play?

"He made it very simple. And I think all the guys, they understand it.”

Kyrie has credited Stevens for his "intellect" and "basketball mind" and he has been called a "mastermind" by new recruit Morris.

It's clear that every member of the roster buys into the coach's thinking and with an entire organisation on the same page, it has led to success on the floor for the Celtics and they will mount a strong challenge for the title this year as a result.

Topics:
NBA
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics

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