After starting the season 0-2 with few players playing well, the Boston Celtics have won three of their last four behind great performances from some key players. However, there are still several players on the Celtics not carrying their own weight.
And in order for the Celtics to prove themselves as an elite team yet again (which, as of right now, they are not), they need better play from a few players. At the same time, they need the players who are playing well to keep up their solid play. So, without further adieu, here is the first installment of Hot or Not, Celtics edition.
Paul Pierce has led the Celtics in scoring in three of the team's last four games, with 25, 24 and 27 points. More importantly, though, he has provided the Celtics with scoring when they've needed it most. And on top of that, he has also been able to make a big impact on the boards.
Without Pierce's reliable play the past few games, the Celtics would not have won the three close games they did. This proves that, at age 35, Paul Pierce still deserves the title "Captain," for he is still leading the Celtics to victory and keeping them from a sub-.500 record.
Amid an offseason featuring many big moves and signings by the Celtics, the trade for Courtney Lee seemed to be one of Danny Ainge's most masterful moves. Ainge unloaded mostly useless roster space to acquire the coveted Lee. However, Lee has failed to make Ainge look like a genius so far this season. In fact, the traded E'Twaun Moore is far outplaying Lee—albeit in a larger role.
For comparison's sake, in the past five games, Moore has scored in double-digits in all of them, while Lee has failed to score over seven points in any of them. Perhaps the most stark comparison can be found in the past game. Moore played 25 minutes and scored 13 points, while Lee played 28 minutes and failed to register a single point.
For now, as crazy as it seems, the Celtics' master trade is working against them. At this point, Lee needs to prove he was worth the trade. Maybe then the Celtics can be considered an elite team again.
All the Celtics need from Kevin Garnett is scoring in the high teens, and that is exactly what the Celtics have been getting from Garnett the past three games (18, 19 and 20 points). And in two of those three games, Garnett pulled down over 10 rebounds.
Last night, particularly, Garnett had a big role in the Celtics' close win over the Bucks. Down the stretch, he scored a couple of key buckets to help the Celtics to a 96-92 win. The Celtics are getting exactly what they need from Garnett, and that needs to continue if they want to continue winning.
Normally, Doc Rivers has a policy of not playing rookies. So far this season, however, Doc has been giving solid minutes to Jared Sullinger. Unfortunately, though, Sullinger has yet to prove himself truly worthy of these big minutes. As a result, he saw a big decrease in his playing time in Boston's last game to just seven minutes.
To Sullinger's credit, he has been rebounding well. But he just needs more NBA experience before he can become an all-purpose contributor for this Celtics team.
Jason Terry is doing exactly what the Celtics expected he would do when they signed him and it is a joy to watch. His energy and efficient high scoring have been just as important in the Celtics' wins as Rondo's passing, Garnett's defense and Pierce's scoring.
The bad news, though, is that the usual bench-spark has been playing so well, especially in contrast to Courtney Lee, that he has been taken out of his preferred bench role.
With Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa—and Avery Bradley eventually returning—it seemed that the Celtics' main problem would be too much depth at shooting guard—especially after Barbosa erupted for 16 points in the opening game. Unfortunately, though, two out of the three shooting guards have been ineffective the past five games.
Since his 16-point debut, Barbosa has only scored nine points. His worst performance of the young season came last night, when he scored zero points on a rough 0-of-6 shooting. That type of continued play will quickly remove him from the rotation. Hopefully he can put this rough patch behind him and give the Celtics that great depth at shooting guard we were all expecting.
The C's don't need 16 points from him, but zero points just isn't going to get it done.
(Unrelated note to readers: I am starting up the Celtics Mailbag again. If you want a question answered, write it on my Bulletin Board here. I will answer all passably appropriate and somewhat related questions!)