Just when you think you have this Boston Celtics team figured out, they go out there and do the complete opposite. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it’s a really bad thing.
Consistency isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when you think about the now 10-8 C’s, fresh off a 105-95 win over the Miami Heat (10-5), on the road on the second night of a back-to-back.
Consider the fact that the Celtics lost by 19 points to the Orlando Magic one night before, and you’d be right to scratch your head.
But the truth is, the Green and White version of Jekyll and Hyde has been going on since a 120-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 20. Boston actually followed that game up two days later with a 10-point loss to the very same Nets – and they played a lot worse than the final score would dictate.
After getting blown out by the Hawks in Atlanta 121-97, the normally cool Brad Stevens had seen more than enough of his team’s lack of effort on the defensive end.
"We’ve got to be a team. And I think that’s first and foremost," Stevens told reporters. "It’s very subjective and it’s hard to pinpoint, but I know this: When your defense is a sieve, you’re not a team."
Did the C’s get the message? It appeared so. They came back to beat the awful 76ers, 84-80, and then dismantled the Wizards for the second time this season, 111-78.
Off to Orlando to begin a five-game road trip... and then came the big letdown. In a game that the Celtics were favored to win, they were beaten badly. So of course they’d take down one of the best teams in the East one night later in Miami, winning the second game of a back-to-back for the third time in four tries this season.
Boston shot close to 60-percent from the field in the first half against the Heat, but much of that success was due to a defensive awareness. They finished the game with 15 total steals, at least three from three different players.
“You’re going to have some nights where you make some really timely ones, some nights where you miss some really timely ones, and then we’ll go back and over-analyze all the other things that didn’t go well,” Stevens told reporters after the Heat game. “But I think that at the end of the day we can only control what we can control. We talked about it before, and our defense was pretty solid.”
When the defense is there, it’s really there. And when it isn’t, it really isn’t. Nine of Boston’s ten wins this season have come by 10 or more points. In contrast, five of their eight losses have come by 10 or more points.
It's clear Stevens has found his team's switch - it's just a matter of keeping it on.
The C's are back in action Thursday when they take on the Kings in Sacramento (10 p.m., CSNNE).