7 Things We Learned About the Boston Celtics After Week 2
In Week 2, the Boston Celtics finally showed a glimpse of what they're capable of.
Whereas the Celtics barely rose above the Washington Wizards during the first week, the team captured its best win of the season so far against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. Rajon Rondo was brilliant in his role as floor general, and all five starters scored in double digits.
The big win was a culmination of the C's steady progress throughout the second week. In a Nov. 9 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston's poor defense was ultimately their downfall. However, the silver lining was Jason Terry's emergence as the sixth man that everyone was waiting for.
In a Nov. 10 win against the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Doc Rivers tweaked the starting lineup by inserting Terry and Brandon Bass in place of Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger. Paul Pierce was still the most consistent source of offense, but nobody is complaining about that.
Until the Celtics reach their desirable level of cohesion, the team will have to take the ugly wins for now. Nonetheless, Boston fans can take away a few key points from Week 2.
Jeff Green Still Struggling
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
After missing the entire 2011-12 season, Jeff Green is still struggling to establish himself as an impact player in Boston.
Green was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline in February 2011, and he initially had trouble adjusting to Doc Rivers' system. However, he's now had ample time to learn his role and is still struggling.
We know the physical abilities are there because Green performed well in the preseason. In 29.3 minutes per game, Green averaged 13.9 points while shooting 49 percent from the field. In the seven games of the 2012-13 regular season so far, Green is averaging career lows across the board. In 20.9 minutes, Green is only chipping in 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds, while shooting 41 percent from the field, accurate as of Nov. 13.
Although Green isn't the only Celtics player struggling early this season, his inability to be aggressive could catch up with him soon. On a team with so many options, Green has to step up to the plate if he wants to be a main piece of the puzzle.
Green's inconsistency and lack of aggression are his biggest problems. To contribute to the team, he needs to play great defense and grab more rebounds. In addition, he needs to drop double-digit points off the bench. The potential is there; the fire just needs to be lit.
Rebounding Must Improve
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The Celtics were the worst rebounding team in the NBA last season, and it looks like not much has changed.
Boston is ranked 30th overall in the NBA with 37.3 rebounds per game, accurate as of Nov. 13. The team is also the worst at offensive rebounding in the league, at 6.4 per game.
For a team who knew what their biggest weaknesses were at the end of last season, it doesn't seem like the Celtics have made much of an effort to improve. Out of the top rebounders on the Celtics, only two manage to grab at least one offensive board per game: Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger.
If the Celtics want to win games, they must rebound the ball. Not only are second chance points imperative to their game, but effective offensive rebounding cuts down on transition points for the opposing team.
Boston simply must do better when it comes to rebounding, on both sides of the court.
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The Boston Celtics used to be known for their lockdown defense. However, for some reason, the C's look like a completely different team this season.
During Friday night's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, it was apparent that the Celtics' defense just wasn't clicking. One telling transition basket sums everything up. Jeff Green drove to the basket, fell down, threw up an airball, and was late getting back on defense to stop a three-pointer from Jrue Holiday.
The Celtics' discombobulated offense is throwing off the already unsteady defense. The Sixers came into the game ranked last in scoring (83.3 points a game) and last in field goal percentage (38.3 percent). Against the Celtics, the Sixers scored 106 points and shot 49 percent.
The Celtics need to get their defense together quickly. Naturally, Avery Bradley's return will be a huge boost, but until then the players have to tap into the same defensive prowess that formed Boston's identity for the past five years.
Rondo Will Hold It Down
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Despite the inconsistencies the Celtics have displayed, one thing has remained constant: you can count on Rajon Rondo to do his job.
The Celtics are ranked first overall with 25 assists per game, mostly thanks to Rondo's skills. On Monday night, Rondo extended his streak of consecutive games with 10 or more assists to 31, the longest in the NBA since John Stockton had 37 in 1989. He also leads the NBA with an average of 12.9 assists per game, accurate as of Nov. 13.
All in all, Rondo had 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists in Boston's 101-95 win over the Chicago Bulls, just one board shy of a triple double. He also added five steals. Rondo scored all of his points in the first three quarters while shooting 56 percent to help the Celtics build a 12-point lead.
While it may have helped that Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich were sidelined, Rondo was brilliant in his own right. Throughout the season, he has made everything look simple, while continuing to display an improved jump shot.
Almost every Boston play in crunch time against the Bulls revolved around Rondo, and he delivered four assists in the final 3:12. The Celtics are relying on Rondo more than ever, but it will make them a better team.
Paul Pierce = Consistency
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While Rajon Rondo is consistent all-around, Paul Pierce has proved to still be the Celtics' most consistent source of offense. There was no doubt that Pierce would play an integral role in helping the team work through its early season growing pains, and the team captain has thrived on the offensive end.
Despite shooting a low 38 percent from the field, Pierce is averaging 19.3 points a game, accurate as of Nov. 13. The veteran has a keen sense of knowing the right time to turn up his scoring mode.
In Friday's loss to the Sixers, Pierce was one of the only players to give Boston a fighting chance. He scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting. In Saturday's win against the Bucks, Pierce contributed an impressive 25 points, even getting into a shootout with Monta Ellis.
The Celtics have lots of offensive weapons, but until they define their roles on the team, Pierce's consistency will hold the team above water. He's only doing what he's always done, but it's good to know that he's still got it.
Jason Terry Finds His Groove
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After struggling to produce during the first week, Jason Terry finally seems to be finding his rhythm with the Celtics.
Terry's scoring is back to his usual double-digit output; he scored 13, 15 and 13 points in the last three games. His field goal percentage has also climbed to 50 percent.
The great news for Boston is Terry is finally starting to hit the clutch shots that attracted the Celtics to the veteran in the first place. In Monday's game against the Bulls, when the rest of Boston's offense struggled, Terry hit two shots to keep the Bulls from coming all the way back from a double-digit deficit.
Recently, Doc Rivers has been flirting with putting Terry in the starting lineup. Although Terry is known for his ability to light up the bench, he has adjusted well so far to the starting shooting guard position.
However, being a starter isn't what sparked the change in Terry's game. He's simply chosen better shots because he's finally comfortable with the offense.
Still Finding Themselves as a Team
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
If we have learned anything this week in the NBA, it's that there is no need to panic yet. Boston's west coast rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, panicked after five games and prematurely fired head coach Mike Brown. While Doc Rivers isn't going anywhere any time soon, Celtics fans have to be patient with the team.
The Celtics have made significant progress since their disappointing loss to the Miami Heat in the season opener, but they still have a long way to go.
Boston invested lots of money and energy into putting together a talented secondary unit. While the potential is there, it's taking the players longer than expected to find their rhythm. Jason Terry is finally cruising, but Jeff Green and Courtney Lee are still struggling to produce consistently.
Thankfully, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are strong enough to carry most of the load for now. Garnett is consistent on intensive defense, Pierce is the main offensive threat, and Rondo is the glue that holds everything together.
As of Nov. 13, the Celtics are on a two-game winning streak. If they want to see continued success, they must go back to the defense that defined them for the past few years. The Celtics have all the pieces; they just need to put the puzzle together.