The lineup data supports the idea that Boston has found itself a defensive lineup for the ages. Check out the carnage on NBA.com's advanced stats tool: When Bradley and Garnett play together, Boston gives up 88.8 points per 100 possessions, allows 38.8 percent shooting and forces nearly one turnover for every assist. This is scary stuff, and it's not one of those small-minute flukes, either -- they've played 658 minutes together. You think that's impressive? How's this: When Rondo and Bradley play together, opponents average 82.2 points per 100 possessions. That's nearly 20 points below the league average. It's in 271 minutes, so it's not as robust a sample as the data with Garnett, but good heavens. The Celtics barely need to bother with an offense if the D is going to provide this kind of domination.
And so it is that we're left to ponder a Boston team that, improbably, has once again placed itself squarely in the debate as we ramp up to the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics are without a doubt the worst offensive team in the tournament, and at some point I still expect that to be their undoing. But please, people, savor what this team is doing defensively. This is historic stuff. As long as Garnett is feeling spry and Bradley and Rondo are wreaking havoc on the perimeter, the numbers say the Celtics at the very least have a puncher's chance of rekindling their 2010 Finals run.
TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz puts the Celtics' new starting lineup under the microscope:
KILLER LINEUP: THE CELTICS' NEW LOOK
Did you see Bradley's block of Dwyane Wade two Sundays ago? Did you see him deny Wade on the perimeter, lock onto him like off every screen and curl? Bradley's prowess as an on-ball defender also allows Rondo to play off the ball, where he can use his long branches to play passing lanes and do a little gambling. Those arms also make Rondo a stellar choice to be one of the two back-size zone defenders in Boston's overloaded defense. Because as important as it is for the C's to suffocate the ball-handler and send that extra body to the strong side, it's the two defenders on the weak side who have a ton of responsibility -- as they usually have to cover three guys.
Every NBA big man under the age of 25 should have the video coordinator at his team's training facility make a feature-length DVD of Garnett's half-court defense. If you watch him closely, you won't see a lot of blocked shots or pickpocketing. His defensive game is an exercise in nuance. At 35, Garnett could probably defend a pick-and-roll with a blindfold on and his most notable contributions are simply where he situates himself on the court in relation to the offense. Garnett's hyperawareness of what the offense is trying to accomplish on a given possessions is remarkable. Watch several dozen defensive possessions with this lineup, and you'll never witness an error in judgment by Garnett. All the while, he's calling out instructions to his teammates and guiding Bass to the right spots.
Finally, over at The Point Forward blog, SI's Zach Lowe makes the case for Garnett as the Defensive Player of the Year as the key to Boston's defensive dominance.
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