The Celtics are 8-7, puttering right along through the season's first 15 games.
There are issues, though, and while there shouldn't be the same amount of consternation at this point as there was through 15 games and a 6-9 start last season, it seems that the level of worry regarding this team is a bit on the high side.
If you want to get down on the defense, surely you have the ammo to back up your argument. Boston, one of the best defensive teams in the league the past five seasons, is struggling on that end of the floor.
Their defensive efficiency rating and opponent's points allowed per game are both ranked 22nd out of 30 teams, an unacceptable number. They've given up 100 points or more in five of their last seven games and that includes a win over the severely offense-challenged Orlando Magic. The Magic came into their game with the C's averaging barely over 90 points per game and featured Big Baby Davis as a go-to guy, but still put up 110 points in an OT defeat.
The defense stands to get better, though. The C's are breaking in a truckload of new faces, and their best defensive player, Avery Bradley, has yet to take the floor this season.
What may bear a closer look, however, is the team's offense.
This may sound strange. After all, the Celts are 11th in both points per game and offensive efficiency, the second start marking their highest ranking in that category since the 2008-09 season. And given that they ranked 27th in offensive efficiency last year, their improvement in that regard thus far should be seen as a welcome surprise.
Still, one has to wonder how long this offensive uptick can really last, especially considering that the Celts' two top options on that end of the floor are the two oldest players on the roster.
Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are seeing their minutes monitored this season, especially Garnett, who is playing less than 30 per game. But in crunch time, when both are on the floor, you can bet that Pierce will still be their first choice and Garnett, particularly if he can get a clean look from mid-range to the perimeter, will be No. 2.
The regular season is a slog, a long bumps-and-bruises-filled march that can test anyone's resolve, especially players on the other side of the hill like Pierce and Garnett. If the C's really want to save some parts of their two biggest stars for a potential postseason run, they need to find other ways to operate effectively on offense.
The question is, how will they do it? There isn't really anyone else on the roster who fits the role of being a focal point on offense. Rajon Rondo could probably handle it. But why ask one of the game's best distributors/facilitators to step out of his comfort zone and into a position that could affect his overall game?
Maybe they can lean more heavily on Jason Terry, although he's not a player who can create for himself at this stage. Or, once Bradley comes back and the backcourt becomes more crowded, perhaps a trade can be swung for a big man who can score, like Phoenix center Marcin Gortat.
Either way, given the age of both Pierce and Garnett, and regardless of the offensive success the C's have had thus far, reducing both players' responsibilities as well as their minutes should be a priority.
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