WALTHAM — Associate coach Tom Thibodeau  has already been mentioned in connection with a number of head coaching jobs this season, and if his resume needed any more polishing he can point to the work his defense has done against the Cavaliers  in this series.
If you throw out Game 3 when the Cavs shot almost 60 percent and scored 124 points, they have averaged just 90.5 points and shot less than 43 percent from the floor. Even with Game 3 in the mix, they have shot just 27 percent from 3-point range.
Much of the focus, as always, has been on LeBron James , but the Celtics  team defense has been stellar (again, aside from Game 3), and much of that credit goes to Thibodeau and the plan he has in place.
“He’s terrific,” Doc Rivers  said Wednesday after the team conducted a short practice. “He’s the best defensive coach I think in the league. I don’t know if there’s a better one and our guys buy into it. I think that’s very important. If they don’t buy into what you’re doing, it’s not going to work. We have a group of guys who are willing to buy in to what we want them to do, to what Thibs wants them to do, and that’s why it works.”
Paul Pierce  has been in the crosshairs thanks to his matchup with James, but he has been quick to deflect praise back to his teammates. The Celtics have a solid gameplan for James: Try to make him take jump shots, keep him out of the paint whenever possible and don’t allow layups. The initial onus is on Pierce, of course, but he knows he has help waiting for him in the paint.
The other issue with a player like James is with all that focus and attention, his teammates can get open, but the Celtics have done a superb job of shutting down his complimentary players.
Antawn Jamison  has averaged 13.2 points, and has been held under 20 points in every game except for Game 3. Mo Williams  has also struggled, shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Anthony Parker  has shot the ball well, but he’s simply not a threat like Jamison and and Williams.
The Celtics have a solid plan in place and the players are executing. That’s not an accident. Thibodeau is known as a grinder. A coach who puts in long hours of work and preparation. That kind of work should be appreciated without fail, but that’s not always the case in this league.
The Celtics, however, are firmly are on board with what Thibodeau preaches and it starts with Kevin Garnett .
“He needs the support of his head coach, one, and then it’s the best player,” Rivers said. “If the best player buys in, everyone follows. Tim Duncan  bought in to Pop and [Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer] and they all followed. It’s the same here. Kevin bought in on Day One. And what choice do you have? You have to follow.”
If Thibodeau does finally break through and get a head coaching job, the Celtics will have a large hole to fill. But for now they are more than happy that he is on their side.