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Leandro Barbosa (12) and Courtney Lee (11) apply defensive pressure in New York.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently said that he was guilty of sounding like a broken record whenever he tried to explain what was at the core of the inconsistency that plagued his team through the first 30 games of the season: It all came back to defense.
So it wasn't surprising to hear Rivers say before practice on Tuesday that his team's first three-game winning streak of the season -- and first real sign of consistency -- has hinged on the defense that was so clearly lacking before.
"It's just been our defense. It's what we've talked about all year," Rivers said. "I don't know what the numbers are, I think it's 16-6 when we hold teams under 100 and 1-11 the other way. And it's just been our intensity. It's been our [willingness] to stay in our coverages and not give up on them. I thought early on we overreacted, a guy scores two buckets in a row and you get some of the guys, 'Let's change coverages' and, well, we really haven't changed anything, which is nice for them to see. But we've done it harder, we've done it better, and when a team scores we don't overreact to it, we keep doing it, and we get better at it."
The return of Avery Bradley has played an important role in Boston's defensive resurgence, as the Celtics have seen better on-ball pressure from him and Courtney Lee aid the rest of the team's efforts.
"I think [Bradley] gets a lot [of credit]," Rivers said. "But I think everyone is in it. But I think it always starts with the guard pressure. I thought in the second half [Monday] night Avery and Courtney were picking up full court with both their guards. You don't see that often. And it had an impact. Instead of the Knicks running up and down the floor, we were running, and they were playing in half court because of our pressure. And I thought it changed the game."
Bradley deflected credit for the turnaround at Tuesday's practice.
"Like I always say, I'm just a piece of this puzzle," he said. "I was somebody who was going to bring energy, and obviously everybody's feeding off of my energy and we're just going out there and playing great team defense."
There was the notion that Bradley's return would lead to a trickle-down effect through the rest of the team, and Rivers acknowledged that that has happened, both in terms of effort and execution.
"I think our pick-and-roll defense is better because we're into the ball. Everybody's over," Rivers said. "What we've said all year, we're just starting to do it, honestly. The more our guards are in front of the ball, the less our bigs have to help, the more they're on the glass. The more we rebound, the more we can run. It's nice, but it's what we've said all year."