The Boston Celtics are fifth in the NBA in defensive rating at 104.3, but to hear Coach Brad Stevens tell it, the number is overrated. Nick Wass/Associated Press

BOSTON — Brad Stevens generally professes not to care about this sort of thing, especially when he knows the number doesn’t tell the truth.

That’s where the Boston Celtics coach was before Saturday night’s loss to Toronto, after being informed that the Celtics led the NBA in rebounding in December.

“Us? Shocker. Ball’s bounced our way I guess,” he said. “We haven’t changed anything with what we’re trying to do on either side of the floor. Obviously Enes’ presence as a rebounder with increased minutes will add rebounds at both ends of the floor, but we’ve tried to put a premium on our wings rebounding all year and they’ve done a good job of that. But I don’t know why this month would be different than any others.”

Especially when what happened next is considered.

The Celtics (22-8) were out-rebounded 53-31 by the Raptors, surrendered 15 offensive rebounds – four alone from Serge Ibaka – 23 second-chance points and 52 points in the paint.

They remain ninth in the league in offensive rebound percentage – thanks largely to the presence of Enes Kanter –and 11th in overall rebound percentage.

But despite the five-game winning streak that was snapped by the Toronto loss, Stevens sees more red flags than not when looking at his team’s defensive makeup. The Celtics are fifth in the NBA in defensive rating at 104.3, and to hear the Celtics coach tell it, the number is overrated, like their rebounding numbers.

Winning can certainly cover up much of what truly ails a team.

“Of course. That’s always the case with winning,” said Stevens, whose team plays at Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s why you use all year as a coach to objectively look at your team. You don’t ride the roller coaster. We talked about things we didn’t do well (Friday against Cleveland) before the game so we could try to do them a little bit better. We talked about what to expect that would be different from an energy and attack perspective from them. (Toronto) met every expectation. They were awfully good.”

Even without the injured Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, the Raptors also exposed the Celtics in another area – transition defense.

“We haven’t been very good at it recently. But we’ve been winning so we’re not talking about it a lot,” said Stevens. “I think the bottom line is that we have to be better on that end of the floor, generally.

“We gotta get back to being a better defensive team and we gotta find the right mix of guys that will defend together, that complement our best players to defend well,” he said. “Just go back to that – you’re not going to win a game like tonight by outscoring these guys again, right?”

Marcus Smart surveyed the damage – the plus-minus category was a box score horror show – and realized after one game back following an eight-game eye-related absence that a lot of tightening up is required in his favorite end of the floor.

“We got back-cut, offensive rebounds, and they got just four wide-open layups,” he said. “Nobody was even back. And that was tough. At the end of the first quarter, it was 14-3 rebound them, and Serge Ibaka had like four offensive rebounds in that quarter alone. That’s tough. That loses games. We lost the game from the start with those mistakes and that’s something we’ve got to be more detailed to because it’s what they do.

“Even in the win against Cleveland the other night, in the fourth quarter, we were giving up wide-open layups, wide-open shots, back cuts and things like that and it spilled over into tonight.”

According to Kemba Walker, renewed effort is all that’s needed to start living up to that defensive reputation again.

“It doesn’t take any skill. It’s nothing but pride and wanting to do it,” he said. “We have to be better with that even though all season we’ve been pretty good transition-wise, but as of late we kind of got away from it. We just have to get back to the drawing board. It’ll be nice to have a chance to get together and practice a little bit and go over the simple things we know can help us win games. We just have to get back to ourselves.”

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