Thanks to Celtics radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande, here is how the NBA’s defensive rating leaders stack up after LeBron James‘ Los Angeles Lakers upset the Golden State Warriors:
With LeBron dropping 56 on Golden State Saturday night, there's a new #1 defense in the NBA… pic.twitter.com/sAsHbFD1t1
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) March 6, 2022
Brown played just two minutes and 48 seconds in the March 1 contest before leaving with what has turned out to be a minor ankle injury.
The next test for the league’s best defense is the Brooklyn Nets, who struggled without Kevin Durant:
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/fNJpJfOpwx
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) March 4, 2022
Let us just say that the Celtics and the Nets have gone in the opposite directions in 2022.
However, can the Celtics’ top defense contain the duo of Durant and former Celtic Kyrie Irving on Sunday?
Both of them have above .500 records against the Celtics in their respective NBA careers:
- Durant: 11-9
- Irving: 12-8
It is a very interesting national television game between the Atlantic Division foes on Sunday.
The Celtics’ Defense Cannot Be Stopped
As Kirk Goldsberry’s graphic above attests, the Celtics have been lapping the field in terms of defensive efficiency recently.
The “Quadrant of Wow” cannot even handle how high Boston’s defense has been rising:
All the way down under where it vertically says “Defensive Efficiency,” you can see the No. 2 defensive team, the Miami Heat.
Now, some people may say that the Celtics have not played many good teams with healthy rosters, but the team’s consistent success speaks for itself.
Boston has won 10 straight games against playoff and play-in teams:
Tonight's win over the NBA's 3rd best team, Memphis, was the Celtics' 10th straight against teams currently in play-in/playoff position. https://t.co/vOaeWYi8Gi
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) March 4, 2022
Also, the Celtics have not lost three consecutive games since December.
The Celtics Have Become An Eastern Conference Contender
In mid-January, the Celtics were the 11th seed, as they were staring down the 2022 lottery.
At 18-21 and then 21-22, Boston looked like it was going to underachieve for the second consecutive season.
There was a lot of chirping about splitting up “the Jays.”
However, 24-year-old Tatum and 25-year-old Brown have a lot of great basketball ahead of them.
That includes the remainder of the 2021-22 regular season and the playoffs.
The Celtics enter play on March 6 in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, just two games away from the second-place Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston has become a contender in a conference that it leads in point differential:
- Boston Celtics: +5.5
- Miami Heat: +4.9
- Milwaukee Bucks: +3.6
- Cleveland Cavaliers: +3.4
- Philadelphia 76ers: +2.2
The play-in Nets — who could get Ben Simmons in time for the postseason — will be a force to be reckoned with, so some luck may be needed in terms of playoff position for the Celtics.
Also, the addition of James Harden in Philadelphia should make life difficult for Boston, Miami, and Milwaukee.
Even so, the Celtics are still in a prime position to make noise in the 2022 playoffs.