Beating the Odds: C’s Avoid Anticipated Collapse

Celtics Competing:  I’ll admit I was one of the many who threw their hands up and said, “What are we going to do now?” when I heard Rajon Rondo was out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Well, since then the Celtics have responded to everyone’s questions the old fashioned way…by simply winning.

The Celtics have won eight of their last nine games with impressive victories over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Chicago Bulls . More importantly, and surprisingly, the C’s have done so without the likes of Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and more recently Leandro Barbosa (all out for the remainder of the season due to injury).

Winning Ways: With the loss of Rondo and Co., Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jeff Green have led the team on the floor along with assistance from Jason Terry. Here are their numbers for the month of February:

Pierce: 17.1 PPG with 8.9 RPG and 7.3 APG

Garnett: 16.6 PPG with 10.3 RPG and 1.4 SPG

Green: 14.4 PPG with 4 RPG and 1.7 BPG

Terry: 13.1 PPG with 3.7 APG

Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Bass have also contributed, each averaging 8 PPG.

The Celtics have used a no “pure point guard” philosophy in their 8-1 stretch without Rondo, and so far it has worked well.

Playoff Probability: Although Boston is finding ways to win without a true point guard, they will have to add depth to their roster if they want to have a sure shot at the post-season. According to ESPNBoston’ Chris Forsberg, Coach Doc Rivers recently released his “shopping list” of what he felt the team needed to compete down the stretch:

“Well, I would say a ball-handling guard. It’s no longer a point guard, it’s just a guard. A guard that, if I had my perfect guard for this group right now, it would be a guard that can play multiple positions, that can shoot, and has some toughness. Then we need a big. You’re not going to find a center, so a 4. Obviously a 5 would be great, but a 4 that can stretch the floor, or a 4 that can rebound — just a great rebounding 4 that has skill. That’s the list.”

We’ll have to wait and see what kind of deals Doc and Danny Ainge can whip up in the weeks to come. As of today (February 15th) the Celtics are 28-24 overall and hold the seventh playoff spot/seed of the available eight in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, if the season ended today the C’s would make the playoffs. Of course, the season still has about 30 games to go and as we all know with any sport “anything can happen”.

Nevertheless, I whole heartedly believe Boston can continue their winning ways and place themselves somewhere between a fifth to seventh seed at seasons end. Honestly, at the rate the C’s are playing, they could even lobby for a fourth seed. We’ll just have to watch and see what happens.

Final Thoughts: With roughly 30 games left and only 10 healthy players on a 13 man roster, the C’s have their work cut out for them as they head down the final stretch. Will the Celtics make the post-season? If so, what playoff seed will they earn? Leave a comment below.

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Options for Filling out the Roster

Player Position Height Weight DOB From Years
Brandon Bass F 6’8 250 4/30/1985 LSU 7
Avery Bradley G 6’2 180 11/26/1990 Texas 2
Kevin Garnett  F 6’11 253 5/19/1976 Farragut Academy HS (IL) 17
JaJuan Johnson F 6’10 221 2/8/1989 Purdue 1
Kris Joseph F 6’7 210 12/17/1988 Syracuse R
Fab Melo C 7’0 255 6/20/1990 Syracuse R
E’Twaun Moore G 6’4 191 2/28/1989 Purdue 1
Paul Pierce – (C) F 6’7 235 10/13/1977 Kansas 14
Rajon Rondo G 6’1 171 2/22/1986 Kentucky 6
Jared Sullinger F 6’9 260 3/4/1992 Ohio State R
Sean Williams F-C 6’10 235 9/13/1986 Boston College 4
Jamar Smith G 6’3 185 Illinois

The Celtics will probably look to add a few more players before training camp. Jamar Smith signed with the Celtics last week but it would likely be a training camp invite and not a full season guarantee. Look for the Celtics to sign a few more players from their summer league squad such as Dionte Christmas. Also previously mentioned are the potential signings of Carlos Delfino or Courtney Lee, but they both do not look promising based on the current cap situation of the Celtics, most likely you are going to see them resign Pietrus and hopefully sign Christmas to a contract. Also they may bring back Keyon Dooling for the veterans minimum as he was a big part of the locker room and gave them a lift in the playoffs.

Another Big Win For C’s

20120410-110055.jpgThe Celtics (32-24) came up with another big win last night over the 76ers (29-27) as they won 103-79 in a game blew wide open in the second quarter. The Celtics had a balanced attack led by KG (20), Brandon Bass and Avery (18), and Pierce (17). Ray Allen came off the bench again and chipped in with 10 points on 4-9 shooting. Rajon Rondo had his 17th straight game with over 10 assists as he racked up 15 last night. The 76ers were led by Nikola Vucevic and Andre Iquodala who had 14 and 13 points. After Evan Turner exploded against the Celtics for 26 points earlier this season, they have held him to 16 points in the two games following.

Avery Alert:

Avery got the start over Ray for the second straight game, and had another solid start. He shot 6-12 from the field and made his only three. He also had 5 assists and 4 rebounds. It’s going to be interesting whether or not Doc ends up putting Ray back into the starting lineup in a few games or sticks with Avery. I’ve also heard that Pietrus may be in the mix to start when he comes back from his head injury but I find that very unlikely. In the past nine games Avery has started 8 of them. In the first quarter, when the starters play a majority of the minutes, the Celtics have given up 12, 15, 21, 20, 19, 27, 18, 19, and 22 points respectively. The only game he didn’t start was against the Spurs. The Celtics ended up giving up 27 points in that first quarter.

The Celtics take on the Heat tomorrow in Miami at 7 PM.

 

Celtics Heat Recap

Rajon Rondo must love playing on national television. I’m sure you’ve already heard but Rondo had his 18th triple double last night. Of those 18, 14 of them have come on national television. Rondo used and abused his way around the court against Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.  Pierce scored 23 for the Celtics, as all the starters had double figure points for the night. The Celtics won 91-72 to move to 30-22 overall and are in 4th place now with a full game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Heat fall to 37-14 on the season,  LeBron James led the way with 23 points and Wade was 2nd with 15. Chris Bosh had only 4 points on 2-11 shooting. The Heat were -30 while LeBron James was on the floor.

The Celtics are quickly looked upon as title contenders. After weeks of talk of throwing this season away, they are now in danger of becoming overrated by the fans and ESPN. Since the injury to Ray Allen’s ankle, they have been on a 5 game winning streak. The combination of Rondo-Bradley backcourt has been phenomenal so far, and I wouldn’t be mad at Doc if he stayed with the lineup when Ray comes back. Doc has to get a lot of credit for the team this year, rolling with the punches and just continuing on.

Extra Notes:

The Heat shot 7-17 from the line; compared to 20-22 for the Celtics. Rondo has 13 consecutive games with at least 10 assists. LeBron had 0 assists for the 2nd time in his career.

Avery Bradley Alert:

Celtics are now 5-0 since Avery came into the starting lineup after Ray’s troubling ankle issues. He played Wade even last night scoring 13 points when Wade only scored 15. But Wade took seven more shots. Avery’s cutting has been big in the past few games, keeping defenders honest by back cutting and then surprising them with his ever improving jumper. His confidence just keeps growing and growing. He went 5-10 from the floor last night and 1-3 from 3.

76er’s Blow Out C’s

After winning five in a row after the Celtics didn’t seem to 20120308-092507.jpgshow up at all against the 76er’s. The Celtics were coming off two overtime games in a row and it clearly showed against the 76er’s. After starting out the game down 14-11. The 76er’s opened up the game with a 30-10 run off of turnovers and bad transition defense by the Celtics. During the run the Celtics shot 4-27 from the floor and were just missing easy open jumpers. The 76er’s were led by Evan Turner who turned his first start into 26 points on 11-19 shooting. He also grabbed 8 defensive rebounds and was huge in starting fast break after fast break for the 76er’s who ran the Celtics into the ground. The rest of the scoring for the 76ers was pretty even as Elton Brand had 18 and Lou Williams had 15.

The Celtics were led by Pierce with 16 and Garnett with 12, honestly not much to talk about the Celtics tonight. The offense was some of the worst that I had seen in the time with the big 3. The 33 first half points were the least, since Danny Ainge traded for Garnett and Ray Allen. I’m going to attribute this loss to some old legs playing a back-to-back after an overtime game.

The Celtics play the Blazers Friday night at the Garden at 7:30.

Extra Notes:

Celtics bench got a lot of play tonight, only Marquis Daniels played under 13 minutes for the bench as Doc played all 13 players; Ray Allen was 0-5 from the field and had his only 2 points from the line; Celtics only had 11 turnovers overall most of them coming during the run, and then 2 more by Marquis late; Tony Battie and Craig Brackins also started but only played 15 minutes total.

Avery Bradley Alert:

Avery had one big highlight of the night for the Celtics, stuffing Jrue Holiday’s last second shot to the ground and leading a fast break which ended up in the hands of Brandon Bass for the dunk. Other than that he was pretty quiet from the field shooting 2-3 and making both of his free throws for 6 points on the night. Lou Williams did put a fade away three right in Avery’s eye; I’m not sure how he could have played better defense, pretty great shot by Williams.

 

All Star Break Grades – Point Guards

Over the next few days during the All-Star Break I am going to be grading the Celtics players by their positions. Starting with the C’s point guards.

Player

Points

Rebounds

Assists

Blocks

Steals

+/-

PER

Rajon Rondo

14.8

4.9

9.5

0

1.64

+61

18.9

Positives: Without Rajon Rondo, I am not sure where the Celtics would be. He is the heart and the motor that drives the team. His jump shot is continually improving to the point where teams are at least aware of where he is on the floor. When he is looking for his shot, he can easily put up over 25 points, but feels content to let the shots come to him and feed the rest of his players. Defensively he is an animal who comes up with over 1.5 steals per game. May be the best passer in the NBA, with his vision, long arms, and huge hands he has not found a pass he couldn’t make. Rondo made the All-Star team, replacing Joe Johnson, and also made the Skills competition, replacing Steph Curry.

Negatives: Still has a way below-average jump shot. Plays hard, but mood can affect his tenacity. May gamble too much as he gives up more points than he saves from steals, relies on power forwards and centers to slide over to help defend. Struggles at free throw line continue (61.5%). Rondo needs to be a less moody player and learn to control his emotions (aka throwing ball at referee other night).

Grade: B+

Player

Points

Rebounds

Assists

Blocks

Steals

+/-

PER

Avery Bradley

4.3

1.8

1.3

.27

.53

+26

7.8

Avery has a very different role when Rondo is out. I am also going to add the 10 games that he started.

Player

Points

Rebounds

Assists

Blocks

Steals

+/-

Avery Bradley

7.3

3.1

2.6

.2

.9

N/A

Bradley vs Thunder

12

2

5

3

1

+3

Avery is obviously getting more and more comfortable with the minutes he is getting. Obviously he cannot replicate the types of numbers that Rondo provides, but the drop off is not as bad as people might think. The offense goes into a different direction with Rondo out, the ball moves much more fluidly and is touched by everyone on offense

Positives: Bradley has a better jumper than Rondo and defenses are going to learn that they have to respect that. This opens up more of a lane for Pierce and Allen to penetrate and find open shooters. He is one of the premier defenders, if not the premier on ball defender in the NBA.

Negatives: Jump shot is still a little shaky although it has looked great in past few games. Can get a little out of control on offense and commit a few turnovers. He can over pursue when he full court presses leading to more problems for other teammates. Avery needs to find more consistency to get the faith from Doc on a day in day out basis.

Grade: B

Player

Points

Rebounds

Assists

Blocks

Steals

+/-

PER

Keyon Dooling

5.1

.7

1.1

.06

.25

-31

7.2

Positives: Keyon has shown that he is not afraid of taking shots at big times, he has shown that he wants to be a crucial scorer off the bench. He is a plus defender and puts in effort on defense, can defend point guard or shooting guard position.

Negatives: For all that Keyon has wanted to do, I am coming to the conclusion that he is just not that good. He is a combo guard who wants to be a shooting guard. He does not have the handle for a point guard, or the ability to create as a two. He forces up too many three’s to allow the Celtics get into a flow. He has struggled with injuries this season and personally when I see him on the floor I just see it as time being taken away from Rondo, Bradley, or even E’Twaun Moore.

Grade: D

Overall:

Rajon Rondo is clearly one of the premier point guards in the NBA and is the best player on the Celtics this season. All he needs to do is mature a little bit more and get his jump shot to just an adequate level to become one of the best players in the NBA. Avery Bradley has been the surprise of the season for the Celtics, playing great defense and being an adequate backup and spot starter for Rondo. He has shown the Celtics he is a player for the future and is my favorite player on the team. Keyon Dooling has been a major disappointment so far. The bench has been extremely weak for the Celtics this season, and Keyon is a major part of that. The offense is not run well, and he has not seemed to mesh with any of those players on the second unit yet. I expect him to have a better second half, but I have not been impressed with him so far.

Overall Grade: B

Celtics vs. Thunder Recap

The Celtics lost their fifth straight game against the Thunder 119-104. It was always going to be a struggle as the Celtics were missing Rondo (suspension), Jermaine O’Neal (Wrist), Chris Wilcox (Right Abductor), and Brandon Bass (Knee). This led to a shift in the lineup of Paul Pierce to the 4 position and Kevin Garnett to the 5. The Celtics started out well in their new lineup jumping out to a 22-12 lead in the first quarter. The Celtics could not hold the lead though, and once the second unit came onto the floor, the Thunder pounced and went on a 30-3 run. The Thunder continued the hot streak and put up the most points in a half all season (72). James Harden was constantly exposing the Celtics defense as he kept blowing by for easy layups.

Pierce actually had one of his better games of the season, by attacking the rim he got to the line 16 times, scored 23 points, and had 8 assists. Kevin Garnett in his first game back had 23 points on 8-11 shooting. Turnovers still hurt the Celtics as they committed 18 in the game. Doc ended up relying much more on his starters than he wanted to as his subs had a terrible night from the floor. Marquis Daniels was only on the court for five minutes but the Celtics were outscored by 17 during those five minutes.

The Celtics mercifully have the All-Star Break coming up this week and have a full week off until their next game against the Bucks.

Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo will be playing in the All-Star Game as reserves for the Eastern Squad.

Extra Notes:

Kevin Garnett came back after two games from missing due to personal reasons; Pavlovic was the only Celtics player who did not play due to Coaches decision; The Thunder had 50 points in the paint; James Harden was +23 while he was on the floor; The Celtics had 3 offensive rebounds, Kendrick Perkins had 5 on his own.

Avery Bradley Alert

Avery Bradley along with Paul Pierce was the only two players for the Celtics who had a positive +/- for the Celtics. Avery shot well again for a second consecutive game going 5-9 from the floor and 2-2 from the line. We also had two of my favorite Avery moments of the season. In the first half Avery got the ball off of a rebound, dribbled the full length of the court and posterized Kevin Durant. Later on in the game, it looked as if Russell Westbrook had a clear path to the bucket but was tapped by Bradley off the backboard and forced a jump ball. Avery had 5 assists and 3 blocks on the night along with his 12 points. In the games that Rondo has missed, Avery has shown Doc that he is a capable backup and definitely a player that the Celtics should be excited about in the future.

Here’s a link to the Avery bradley Dunk (must watch)

Avery Bradley Throws It Down

There’s not a whole lot to be happy about right now if you’re a Celtics fan. Pierce and Rondo will be in Orlando for the All-Star game, nice. The Celts showed signs of life and came within 8 points after being down a million last night, great. See what I’m getting at? We have to seek the little things to get some sort of joy lately. With that being said, Avery Bradley’s dunk over Kevin Durant last night can’t go unnoticed. Standing at a whole 6’2″ and weighing 180 lbs, Bradley absolutely posterized one of the league’s best players. Granted he dropped 28 points en route to smoking the Celts, I couldn’t not highlight this dunk, so we’ll just look past the C’s five game skid. Enjoy.

 

Is Avery Bradley the Key to the Game? Celtics-Thunder Preview

In the Celtics (15-16) last game before the All-Star Break they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder (25-7) and former teammate Kendrick Perkins. Rajon Rondo will not be able to play against his good friend as he will be serving the second game of his two game suspension for throwing the basketball at the referee. The two teams are heading in different directions as the Celtics have lost 6 of their last 7 and their last 4 in a row. The Thunder have won their last three games and are 9-3 in the month of February. The Celtics are also 4-8 on the road while the Thunder are 13-1 at home.

The Celtics will hopefully get Kevin Garnett back as he has missed the last two games due to a family matter. The Celtics are extremely weak at the power forward position if he doesn’t play as Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox are both day to day from injuries against the Mavs and Brandon Bass is out until after All Star break. The Celtics will have to rely heavily on Jajuan Johnson and Greg Stiemsma as they are the only two power forwards or centers on the roster.

The Thunder are just two games removed from what I can remember as one of the most ridiculous statlines a trio of NBA players has ever produced

Player Points Rebounds Assists Blocks Steals
Kevin Durant 51 8 3 0 4
Russell Westbrook 40 4 9 1 0
Serge Ibaka 14 15 0 11 1

These three bring back memories of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. While they have accomplished nothing yet, they are look very tough to beat this year and will pose a big problem for the Celtics

Keys to the Game

Get out and Run

The Celtics may or may not have any one of the three big man listed day to day. But if they do, and more importantly if they don’t, they need to get into the open floor and get some easy baskets. The team is struggling in its half court sets and getting easy baskets allows the defense to set up and do its job.

Get some Penetration

Other than Pierce and Ray last game the Celtics were settling for a lot of jumpers. The offense was stagnant and the ball was not moving crisply. It’s tough to get open shots when your not making the defense work.

Cut down on Turnovers

Paul has been trying to take over the game and its nice to see, but his 10 turnovers in the past two games is hard to swallow. The Celtics have to take care of the ball and it starts with The Truth. The Celtics are too good of a defensive team to be giving up so many easy buckets off of turnovers.

Avery Bradley

Finally, my man Avery came out strong in the first quarter last night, looking for his shot and actually hitting it. If he can show he has a consistent jumper, it will open up the floor for the rest of the Celtics shooters and allow him to penetrate and create. No one is really concerned by his defense, we all know Avery D’s up!