ORLANDO, Fla. -- Having the best defense at summer league is a bit like having the best looking car at a demolition derby. Play this time of year is not typically renowned for its focus on that end of the court, but that hasn't stopped the Boston Celtics from making it a priority.
Boston has only played one game, but it has the best defense at summer summer league through two days. Not only did the Celtics limit the Miami Heat to 32-percent shooting in Saturday's tournament-opening win, but the Green allowed a measly 0.694 points per play (77 points on 111 plays), according to Synergy Sports data (yes, they even track advanced numbers for summer exhibitions).
"I just think it’s a great reflection on the culture that Coach [Brad] Stevens is trying to create here," said Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, who is running the summer squad. "He places a huge emphasis to our summer league coaching staff that this needs to reflect the way we want to play this year, and we recruited players that are going to play that way and value the things we value. That’s made us feel really good and hopefully we have that same effort [Monday]."
Stevens won't put too much stock in one summer league outing and was pleased more by the general effort than the result.
"The shared characteristics that any coach would like to see is great effort and attention to detail, especially on the defensive end," said Stevens. "Then, offensively, sharing the ball and being an unselfish team. I walked out [Saturday] really really pleased, not just because of the fact that we won a summer league game, but more so because I saw a lot of the young guys that are back, and the young guys that have been added to this roster, a lot of the things that we want to be were on display."
Stevens said he felt second-year guard Phil Pressey "really set the tone defensively," and Pressey later suggested he's been stressing defense to the newest faces on the roster. Rookie first-round pick Marcus Smart, the sixth overall selection in last month's draft, earned hefty praise for his defensive efforts in Saturday's win.
"A guy like Marcus, I couldn’t have been happier with his first summer league game and he was 2-for-8 [shooting] and 0-for-5 [beyond the 3-point arc]," said Stevens. "Because I really think he’ll grow and, his shot, I think that’s something that will come over time. iI think the biggest thing is he just needs reps and beliefs and we’ll help him get there. At the end of the day, he did so much defensively that is way beyond his years, not only physically but mentally. He’s obviously been well-coached, at multiple levels."
That was a sentiment echoed by Larranaga.
"I think part of it is that we’ve had guys that have played defense in the past," said Larranaga. "Marcus, from what I understand, played for one of the best high school coaches in Texas and someone that stressed that defense. He was considered one of the best defensive guards in the draft. With us, he’s continued to show that. Chris Johnson, very similar. They are buying into what coach wants. But they also have some really good habits that they’ve formed throughout their career."