The Boston Celtics look like an absolute juggernaut to begin the season. They are 4-0 and their last game was a 51-point blowout victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
This team is loaded with elite talent, good outside shooting, strong depth and a better/more experienced coaching staff compared to last season.
But the primary reason why this Celtics squad has been so dominant, and why they are the favorites to win the 2024 NBA Finals, is their defense.
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The Celtics have played at a very high level defensively so far.
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They rank fifth in defensive rating. They are consistently out-rebounding opponents, particularly on the defensive glass. They are limiting opponents' points in the paint. They are blocking shots at a high rate. And perhaps most importantly, they are clamping down and contesting shots in clutch situations.
Here's a look at where the Celtics rank in key defensive stats:
Porzingis has been a difference-maker defensively so far. He's an imposing figure in the paint at 7-foot-3, and he's averaging 1.5 blocks per game. The Latvian center doesn't get a lot of props for his defense, but it's an important part of his skill set.
Opponents are having a tough time even getting into the paint and challenging Porzingis because the Celtics' guards on the perimeter, especially Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, have been awesome defensively. White's 1.3 blocks per game are tied for the third-most among all guards.
"Those guys, the guards that we have, especially also now with the addition of Jrue, (Derrick White), those two guys, obviously, don't need to say anything, they're all elite defenders," Porzingis told NBC Sports Boston at Celtics Media Day. "So with that pressure, guys will try to drive in and it's going to be even tougher to finish.
"And then on top of that, (Al Horford) and myself coming in to block, it's going to be a tough task (for opposing players). I know that for sure. So we look forward to building that defensive chemistry to where we would get to like an elite level as a team."
The Celtics have a lot of guys who can score. Their starters are scoring 99.8 points per game, which is almost eight full points more than the next-best team. Offense shouldn't be an issue for this group. If Jaylen Brown and/or Jayson Tatum are struggling, Porzingis, Holiday, White, Payton Pritchard or Sam Hauser can step up and provide scoring.
Defense likely will be the difference for the Celtics this season. They were a good defensive team last year, but that end of the court also cost them in several playoff games. Getting back to a consistently elite level defensively -- similar to what we saw from them throughout the 2022 playoffs -- is the key to the Celtics getting back to the NBA Finals and winning their first title since 2008.