Celtics Starting to Click on Defense

November 21, 1980

Bill Fitch's mood changed quickly. He was smiling as he talked about the Celtics' resurgence on defense. Then came a look of panic. His copy of the master plan that had helped beat Indiana on Wednesday night was nowhere to be found.

Very politely, he excused himself and started a quick search. Moments later, he returned with a four-page report in his hand. The smile had returned.

"I found it," said Fitch with a sigh of relief. "It's a very good report, and I would have hated to lose it. Our scouts have done an excellent job of preparing us for upcoming teams.

"The first report was done from scouting the teams in person. We try to find out which plays they like to use and how they like to play on defense. The first one is only a page or two long. But then we watch the videos and add to it as the season goes along. I'm looking at this report now, and it seems to me that that Indiana ran every play on it."

And the Celtics were ready again Wednesday night. They left Indianapolis with a 103-91 victory over the Pacers. It was the Celtics' fifth straight win, raising their road record to 6-3, and they will carry a 12-5 overall mark into tonight's game (7:30, WBZ radio) against the Golden State Warriors at the Garden.

"When you're over .500 on the road," offered Rick Robey, "That means you must be doing the job as a team. We got off to a slow start, but now we're starting to come around."

The Celtics are doing the job, and it is indeed a team effort. Bird's 20- point average doesn't even put him in the top 10 among NBA scorers. But nobody is worried, because scoring balance always has been a hallmark of good Celtic teams . . . and this one is no exception. Against the Pacers Wednesday, the first six players in the game were in double figures.

"How many times do you see it?" said Chris Ford. "Good defense leads to good offense. We're blocking shots and controlling the boards, and that pays off in points at the other end."

The Celtics have talked about team effort all year, but now they are starting to show it on defense. In the last seven games, they have held opponents to an average of less than 97 points.

The detailed game plan that Fitch thought he'd lost stressed defense, and he is pleased that he has players who not only digest such information but can quickly implement it.

"I think it's good that we have intelligent players," he said. "The information is all there. But they are the ones who study it and make it work. They have a good idea of what the other team is doing and they just go about doing their job."

It is how they do their job that is interesting. Suddenly, the defensive balance rivals that of the offense. Bird had 18 rebounds to lead the Celtics against Indiana. Robert Parish's shot blocking is a major part of the intimidation that Boston is trying to establish inside.

But Robey, Kevin McHale and even Eric Fernsten are getting into the act when Fitch goes to the bench, and that is no accident.

"It comes from the idea of helping each other out," said Robey. "I get help from the guards, Tiny and Chris, who in certain situations drop off when the ball comes in. Everybody is hustling. Most important, every guy knows that if he gets beat, he doesn't have to worry about his man being completely free. Somebody will be there."

1 comment:

FLCeltsFan said...

It always comes down to defense...

"Defense is more important than breathing..." I love that line.

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