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Marcus Smart, right, plays tenacious defense and should receive consideration for defensive player of the year. David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The most prolonged season in NBA history is about to enter the scrimmage phase, with the Celtics seeing their first post-shutdown live action Friday night against Oklahoma City.

Each side’s defensive pedigree considered, the ball’s not going to glide like a stone across a lake. Expect a lot of plops.

But if the Celtics are as defensively connected as they should be, that end of the floor should hold up well in the early going, as the offense works into a flow. And as always, one player in particular has gone about setting that defensive tone.

“Smart’s Smart,” Daniel Theis said of teammate and defensive player of the year candidate Marcus Smart. “As soon as he steps on the court he plays hard. That’s 110% every time. Everybody sees Smart play this way and everyone wants to play like Smart. So he’s pulling the team his way.”

Smart’s aggressive, in-your-grill approach with his teammates is a nice place to start, but it takes time for a team to find its overall defensive connectivity.

“I think the first thing to be tested when you’re getting conditioned again to play basketball – and five-on-five basketball – is you end up taking shortcuts on the defensive end,” said Coach Brad Stevens. “The good news is we’ve had two weeks to watch film, go back to the practice court and go work. So it’s been much better this week.

“It’s very important. We’re not going to last long if we don’t pressure the ball and if we don’t guard with great enthusiasm, energy and interchangeability. That’s how we’re built, that’s what we’re good at. So we have to soar with that strength if we want to hang around long.”

As a top-five defense, at least the Celtics have the foundation. They’ll be tested before the actual games start, too, with scrimmages against Phoenix on Sunday and Houston on Tuesday night.

“We’ve been a great defensive team all year, so it wasn’t hard to pick all of the defensive principles up again,” said Theis. “Focus on details for the rest of the season.”

The emergence of Theis in this system has been vital, especially in a scheme that figured to suffer with Al Horford’s departure for Philadelphia.

“I think I fit the first unit pretty good because I don’t need the ball in my hands,” he said. “So many guys around with Kemba (Walker) and Gordon (Hayward) who are natural scorers, so I get them open with screens, get them open shots and then move without the ball. That’s why I fit this first unit so well.

“Enes (Kanter) is a post player, needs the ball in his hands, a great post player, can pass out of the post and can score,” he added. “I was lucky that I learned in my first two years from Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Especially in the defensive end on an NBA team. You have to be vocal, be the leader. See the whole team in front of you. So my job is to protect everybody in the defensive end as well.”

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