BOSTON (CBS) — The defense hasn’t always been there for the Boston Celtics this season. But if they want to make a legitimate run in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, they’re going to need efforts like Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves on almost every night.
The Celtics pulled down 32 defensive rebounds to the Wolves’ 27 in their 117-104 win on Wednesday night. They held big man Karl-Anthony Towns (24.3 points per game) to just 17 points and Andrew Wiggins to just 9-for-23 from the field, limiting the entire Timberwolves team to just 44 percent shooting on the night.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge talked about Wednesday’s win and the state of the Celtics with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich and special in-studio guest Mike Gorman on Thursday. Ainge knows as well as anyone that the Celtics aren’t going to overwhelm opponents with offense – so they are going to need to play good defense more consistently if they want to win more down the stretch.
“There are a lot of different ways to win games, but defense has to be our identity,” said Ainge.
Ainge was also asked about the upcoming NBA Draft, in which the Celtics hold the right to swap their first-round pick for the Brooklyn Nets’ pick, which has the potential to land in the top-two. One potential selection for the Celtics is guard Lonzo Ball, whose father LaVar has made headlines for controversial comments related to his son’s NBA future.
Ainge said that controversial family figures would not deter the Celtics from picking a talented player in the draft.
“I would never hold a player’s family against the player if I like the player,” said Ainge.
As for this year’s draft in particular, Ainge stopped short of describing any one player in the draft as “transcendent” because it’s so rare that a no-doubt prospect like LeBron James comes along and shows franchise-altering talent in high school or college. Ainge may not be predicting Hall-of-Fame careers for the 2017 draft class, but he does apparently see at least one future All-Star among the pack.
“Even Patrick Ewing [in 1985], people weren’t saying he was ‘transcendent’ when he was 19,” said Ainge. “Same with Tim Duncan [in 1997]. I think that it’s hard to identify those guys at 19, but I’d say yeah … there’s going to be a guy [who makes] multiple All-Star appearances, for sure.”
Listen to the full podcast below: