How the Celtics’ Defensive Tactics Are Breaking Down The Cavaliers

The Celtics defensive tactics are proving to come out on top during the series against the Cavaliers, with an amazing lead of 3-2. Stevens’ men on the court showed why they deserve to reach the NBA finals as they saw off Lebron James and his teammates in a heart-pounding victory that finished 96-83 to the Celtics. Find out more about this nail-biting game below!

The 05/24 Game

The Celtics made sure that they wore down the Cavaliers in their final conference game and were especially challenging to the Cavalier’s star man Lebron James. Through switching out Marcus Morris for Aron Baynes, they opened themselves up to increased switches throughout the game and ultimately, a much better defense strategy. The tactical switch meant that, in a run of 26 minutes, Tristan Thompson for the Cavaliers was only able to convert one rebound. The Celtics took advantage of the Cavs weaknesses by making sure that Lebron didn’t have any runs towards the rim, though there was a scored rebound, a close-knit defense on the Celtic side certainly prevented this from happening again.

The Celtics went for a pick-your-position approach which allowed them to not have to worry about rotations off of James to his teammates which, of course, then allowed them to perform much better behind the 3 point line. The Celtics went for a rotating man marking approach which meant that finding space to dribble into and past the 3 pointer line was impossible which ultimately made it extremely tough for the Cavs to obtain quick points and gave the Celtics their usual complete control of the game.

The Celtic defense opted for setting ‘traps’ near the net and kept as many players back as possible so that when James’ came forward with the ball on the attack, he had no clear options for movement. This worked well for the Celtics as it quickly became apparent that they had tired Lebron out! Since Irving left the Cavaliers for the Celtics, James has quite clearly got more on his plate as the Cavs rely on him as their main source for offense and without Irving by his side, James has certainly got a heavier workload.

Stevens decided that the best way to approach this game was to keep with a seven-man rotation. By removing forward Semi Ojeleye, he made it much easier to rotate the rest of the players and therefore created a much more manageable playing time for each player. In fact, only two players found themselves having to play for more than 34 of a total 48 minutes. This tactic quickly wore the Cavs down and with limited rotations left to use, this meant that the Celtics players on the pitch in the 3rd and 4th quarter were certainly fresher and full of energy. Quicker mounts and more frequent attacks were the results, which wore down the Cavaliers with ease, ultimately leading to them making mistakes and practically giving away points.


Another tactic that the Boston Celtics used effectively was their aforementioned switches. This defensive move reduces the amount of space that the opposition shooters have, allowing them to stall the attack of the opposition which in turn gives them more time to better their positions defensively. The Celtics took advantage of their player’s versatility to play in different positions and played a significantly stronger side both physically, and in size, in order to boost their defense. Brad Stevens the Celtics manager can boast about having the best defense in the league proven by so much more than just the playoffs against the Cavs.

Earlier in the season, one of the most promising teams – the Philadelphia 76ers – were stopped in their tracks because of the lack of passing options and routes that lead towards the hoops making it impossible to get an easy shot at the net. Thanks to the defenders also being able to shoot the quick counter attacks, the Celtics proved difficult to deal with for the 76ers, as any commitment to an attack strategy from the opposition allowed the Celtics to take full advantage.

Unfortunately, the defensive masterclass which has been shown by the Celtics wasn’t enough to pull them to the finals. Cleveland was able to snatch a place in the finals by winning the playoff series 4-3 with Lebron James being the difference once again, though talk that he could be switching to the Detroit Pistons amongst other alternatives this summer had certainly been shaking up the Cavalier team. The Celtics didn’t let the Cavs go through easily as they put up an honorable battle but they lacked the offensive experience that the Cavs have within Lebron James at the head.

With Irving injured, the Celtics had no star shooter to get them the points that they desperately needed. However, the Celtics will certainly be looking to contend for the title next season as they have defiantly shown time and time again exactly why they should be there.

Written by Jeff Bilbrey

Founder of Detroit Sports Nation - Jeff Bilbrey manages the day to day operations of Detroit Sports Nation as well as all content delivery systems, ad networks and social platforms. Email him at [email protected]

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