NBA: 5 Reasons Boston Celtics' Stretch Run Will Not Tire Them out in Playoffs
Or are they?
The Celtics are winning basketball games at the right time, building momentum that tops that of most other teams in the league as of late. In spite of the work put into this winning stretch, there is no reason for Boston to take its foot off of the gas.
Since the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics are 17-7, boasting wins over LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers and at both the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers. Rajon Rondo has lead the troops during the run, boasting 17 consecutive games with at least 10 assists.
Talk about impressive.
These are the five reasons why the Celtics stretch run will not take a toll on their chances to come home with an NBA championship in 2012.
5. Wins Building Momentum for Rajon Rondo, Picking Up the Pace
Rajon Rondo hasn't just been good or great as of late. His play has been outright ridiculous.
Since the All-Star break, Rondo has been tearing up opposing defenses with his top-notch play at the point guard spot.
Since averaging 9.9 assists per game in February, Rondo has posted numbers of 12.9 assists in March and 12.8 assists in April.
What's more? Rondo has recorded at least 10 assists in the team's last 17 games, and at least 11 assists in the team's last 15. Talk about some ridiculous numbers.
If Rondo can continue to lead this team to victories with his solid play as the floor general, there is much promise for the Celtics come postseason time.
4. Big Three Know This May Be the One Shot
With Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett potentially being dealt after the 2011-2012 season, Paul Pierce and the Big Three know this may be their one last shot to win an NBA title together.
Winning big since the All-Star break will do anything but take away from this team's shot at another NBA championship, as this is an experienced core that knows what it will take to get the Celtics over the hump.
If anything, it is clear that this Big Three feel that this win streak is proving the Celtics are beginning to gel as a unit just in time for playoffs. According to the Boston Globe, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel shared his thoughts on this Celtics team. “They’re playing at a very, very high level," Vogel told the Globe. "They have a championship coach and a championship core. They know how to get it done."
Make no mistake about it, given the significance of this season, a couple of wins will not be enough to tire this team out before the playoffs.
3. Sends Message While Bulls, Heat Struggle
For the better part of the NBA season, the team that would be representing the Eastern Conference in the 2012 NBA Finals would have seemed to be a lock between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
Yet, this is no longer necessarily the case, as both the Bulls and Heat have had their fair share of struggles.
Although they have continued to win basketball games, the Bulls have been without Derrick Rose for a significant portion of this season. He is back in the lineup for this team, but he is still quite vulnerable, having just come back for injury.
Meanwhile, the Heat have been losing some of the more crucial games as of late. The team has lost its last eight road games against playoff teams, most recently losing to the Boston Celtics in what was a 91-72 blowout.
As the Celtics have climbed up to the No. 4 spot in the East with their winning ways as of late, there is no doubt this is putting an added pressure on these two powerhouses in the conference.
2. Pierce, Garnett and Allen Only Getting Better
In spite of what has been a jam-packed NBA schedule this season, the Boston Celtics' veteran Big Three have only upped their production as the season has gone on.
Paul Pierce, the leader of the troops, was recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Month in March after posting 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per contest.
In spite of missing several games to finish the month of March, Ray Allen has also gotten hot at the right time. He averaged 14 points per game and shot just under 40 percent from three-point range last month.
The Big Ticket has easily put up his best numbers of the season as of late. Kevin Garnett posted 17.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in March, as it was clear he has decided to get more aggressive offensively and on the glass. Garnett finished the month with three double-doubles in six games.
As the production has only continued to improve for the Big Three, it is clear fatigue has not set in on them just yet. If the Celtics' core can sustain this production in the postseason, this will be a difficult team to knock out.
1. Doc Plays and Will Continue to Play the Bench More Minutes
Much like how San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich manages his own team, if there's one thing that Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows, it's that Boston's Big Three need rest.
In the Celtics' most recent win over their division-rival Philadelphia 76ers, the Big Three averaged just 28.3 minutes in the contest.
Although this was a blowout victory for the team, it is clear Rivers will be keen on playing his bench more often down the stretch, as he has done each of the last five seasons.
Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass both played over 33 minutes and were used readily throughout the contest and the game's final stages.
After failing to play more than 30 minutes a contest in any month this season, Bass is currently up to 33 minutes per game in April. Bradley's minutes are also up, averaging 32.2 minutes per game. The average is well above the 19.2 per game he has played overall in the 2011-2012 season.
Continuing to feed bench players minutes and keep the Big Three between 22 to 29 minutes per game will be crucial down the stretch. Rivers is a coach that understands how vital these veterans are for this team, as their playing time will only continue to be reduced in these final weeks.