Upon further review, the Suns’ defensive lockdown of the Boston Celtics Friday night was the team’s best defensive effort of the Steve Nash Era, according to research done by ESPN Stats and Info at my request.
I previously reported that the Suns posted an off the charts defensive efficiency of 71.7. ESPN Stats and Info uses a similar metric called defensive rating that essentially measures the same thing (points per 100 possessions) but calculates possessions a bit differently. That system had the Suns at a 70.9 defensive rating.
That astounding measure means the Suns played their fourth best defensive game in the last 15 years and their best since putting up a 67.7 rating against the Nuggets on March 4, 2003, Amare’s rookie year and a year and a half before the Nash Era took off.
The Suns also played better defense twice during February 2000, limiting the Clippers to a 69.1 offensive rating on Feb. 2, 2000, and yielding a 70.0 defensive rating against Denver on Feb. 22, 2000. So at least Backcourt 2000 has that going for them.
What makes this defensive performance all the more incredible is that it came against a Celtics squad that’s far and away leading the league in shooting percentage, as they entered last Friday night shooting 50.2 percent, a mark only bettered by the 2008-09 Suns (who shot 50.4 percent) since 1996-97. Boston knocked down just 34.2 percent of its shots in this one, a low it has not touched since February 2007, a time before the Big Three Era.
Many factors likely contributed to this outlier of a performance, but it’s no stretch to call the Suns’ superb defensive shutdown of the Celtics their best defensive game in years.