Just about everyone expected the Boston Celtics' defense to improve when Avery Bradley returned earlier this week. It almost had to given how poorly Boston played over the first 30 games of the season. And while the sample size is still way too small to get worked up about, here's a glance at the numbers, pre- and post-AB that highlight just how good Boston's defense has been the past three games:
A look at Boston's defensive numbers over the last three games with the return of Avery Bradley (opponent numbers per 48 minutes):
In case you are wondering, the Celtics lead the league in opponent points, opponent field goal percentage, and forced turnovers during this three-game stretch. Hang around the top five in those categories for a while and a team will enjoy a tremendous amount of success.
The usual asterisk applies here: The Celtics have to keep it up, particularly against the elite offenses of the league. But this three-game stretch has offered the first real glimmer of hope for this team (maybe outside of the Oklahoma City victory in November). The Celtics look like they are getting their identity back.
One more dose of defensive stats for you: The Celtics have allowed 0.814 points per play over the last three games with opponents turning the ball over on 16 percent of plays (and Boston committing shooting fouls just 7.5 percent of the time).
Over the first 30 games of the season, Boston's numbers were up at 0.925 points per play with a 13.9 turnover percentage and Boston fouling on 9.7 percent of plays. That's a remarkable turnaround the last three games.