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Ainge: Smaller Lineup Has Led To Slip In Celtics' Defense

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics' calling card throughout the season has been their defense, but it seems to have disappeared over the last week.

While the Celtics are still putting up a hard-nosed effort on that end of the floor, they've allowed 100+ points in four-straight and seven of their last eight games (with the C's losing five of them). Boston has seen their points allowed per game average balloon to 100.8, dropping them to 13th overall in the NBA.

Defense seemed optional for both teams in Toronto on Wednesday night, as the Raptors put up 115 against the Boston defense. Celtics president Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich on Thursday, and said some of that is due to Boston going with a small lineup, but it is also the product of going against some very good offenses.

"We've been playing smaller to try to get more offense and our defense has slipped. But these last two games [against Toronto and Dallas] our defense hasn't been as bad, we just went up against great offenses," said Ainge. "[DeMar] DeRozan was terrific last night (34 points) and [Luis] Scola was knocking down threes. It was a really good performance by Toronto's offense, more than our bad defense."

Part of that small lineup are guards Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart. Fred asked Ainge which of the two are a better option long-term for Boston, with Ainge hoping it's both of them.

"Marcus has played power forward for us at times. He's playing the two, the three and the one," noted Ainge. "Isaiah is the better point guard right now and a better scoring point guard. We need that. Marcus doesn't have the speed of Isaiah and doesn't defend speedy guards quite as well as Avery Bradley, but he does so many different things. I think all three are long-term fits."

Ainge said it's clear that when Smart is on the floor, his intensity is contagious.

"When you have a guy who plays that hard and with that kind of passion, who mixes it up with the 7-footers inside and just instills his will on the game, that passion is contagious. Everyone sees it and I think he does elevate the intensity of our team," said Ainge.

They also discussed the recent play of Kelly Olynyk, who is shooting 49 percent from three-point range since Thanksgiving.

"Kelly is getting better all the time. With our big players, it's been musical chairs with a lot of them. It's been difficult for Brad to manage those minutes because no one has really taken the job, but the way Kelly has shot the ball he's earned those minutes," he said.

Ainge also touched on how many players from the 1986 Celtics should make a new list of the Top 100 players of all-time. He said Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are obvious selections for the top-tier, and that Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson should also make the list.


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