Brad Stevens isn’t alone in wondering aloud about the Boston Celtics’ defense.
The Celtics’ prowess at defending big men, or lack thereof, is among topics ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported he’s seeing and hearing inside the NBA’s Orlando, Fla., bubble Wednesday. Daniel Theis has exceeded expectations as the Celtics’ starting center, but his and his backups’ inability to shine against the top big men in the Eastern Conference might hamper Boston in the NBA playoffs.
“Can Boston defend Bigs?” Bontempts wrote.
“At the trade deadline, teams were watching the Celtics to see if they would try to do something to shore up their interior defense. While Daniel Theis has been a revelation replacing Al Horford, he isn’t able to handle the likes of Joel Embiid, Brook Lopez or Marc Gasol inside — all players Boston will have to face to make it out of the East.
“So far inside the bubble, Steven Adams had a strong scrimmage performance and both Jusuf Nurkic and Bam Adebayo had their way with Boston in the paint. Opposing scouts are wondering if the Celtics made a mistake in failing to address this need in February — particularly with it looking more and more likely that Boston is going to play Embiid and the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.”
Stevens lamented the Celtics’ problems in the paint Tuesday night following their loss to the Miami Heat. His clear statement, “Our defense has to improve,” reflects the urgency with which he views the issue.
Having declined to address the issue at the trade deadline, the Celtics might revisit it in the offseason, especially if they suffer an early exit at the hands of Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers or another of the aforementioned bigs.