When the news of Rajon Rondo's suspension for Game 2 of the Boston Celtics' first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks came down late Monday afternoon, a rather important byproduct of the league's verdict was hardly discussed.
What will the C's backcourt look like on Tuesday night without not just Rondo, their best player in Game 1, but without Ray Allen as well?
Obviously, no Rondo means a lot of Keyon Dooling and probably a bit of E'Twuan Moore to go with Avery Bradley. And that is not a good position for the C's to be in given how thin they already are at guard thanks to Allen's troublesome ankles.
Allen's absence was felt in a major way during the Celts' Game 1 loss on Sunday night, and that was with Rondo in the lineup. Still, it was slightly odd given how successful they were without him during the regular season.
Certainly, it's never a good thing when you're missing a player with the skill set, acumen and experience of Allen. But the C's managed a stellar 16-4 record without him on the season. Which is why, with his status for this series in doubt headed into Game 1, the prospect of missing him for however many games seemed less daunting.
But then the Celts went out and put up a nauseating 0-for-11 from three-point range in that 83-74 loss. It was hard to imagine the C's losing the game, in spite of how horridly they played, if they'd hit on say two of those 11 attempts.
Not having Allen in Game 1 not only didn't help the Celts' three-point shooting, it almost completely robbed them even of the threat. On an inbounds play late in the game, TNT commentator Steve Kerr remarked on how if Allen was on the floor, not only could the Celtics run something for him, they could also use him as a decoy, sending him around a couple of screens, which potentially could have set up an open look for someone else.
Still, the Celts can survive without him. They are not going to put up an 0-fer from long distance again and Paul Pierce almost certainly will not suffer through the kind of miserable shooting night he posted on Sunday (5-for-19, 0-for-6 on threes).
But without both Allen and Rondo? That's a much tougher scenario to imagine.
The Celts were already dealing with less experience and more nerves than was comfortable with Bradley filling in for Allen in Game 1 (and make no mistake, as well as Bradley played down the stretch of the regular season, he was a deer in headlights on Sunday night and it showed in his tight play).
Now, there will be a lot more green in the backcourt beyond just the uniforms. Dooling, a career backup who will earn the start in place of Rondo, has averaged 16 minutes in 30 career playoff games. Bradley will be forced to play some minutes at the point, where he's completely miscast. And Moore is a rookie, second-round pick who played 331 total minutes over 38 games this season.
Pierce will certainly see some time at the point, where he put up a career-high 14 assists in a win over Orlando in the last week of the regular season. But that will only serve to weaken the Celts at another position as well. And when your bench is as thin as the Celts' is (four points on 2-for-7 shooting in Game 1), having to rely on it any more than you already do is playing with fire.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made it very clear on Monday that he will not rush Allen back into action regardless of Rondo's status for Game 2. Given the far reaching implications of the suspension to the C's quarterback, we'll see if that declaration holds true come Tuesday night.
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