What We Learned from the First Quarter of the Boston Celtics' Season

Pat DeCola@Pat_DeColaCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2012

What We Learned from the First Quarter of the Boston Celtics' Season

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    Needless to say, things haven't quite gone as planned for the Boston Celtics this season.

    Currently fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference with a lousy 11-9 record, Boston certainly had higher aspirations for the first season after reloading following the loss of Big Three member Ray Allen. 

    The combination of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry has underwhelmed at times, Jeff Green has yet to be consistently explosive, and there still isn't a clear-cut big man to replace Kendrick Perkins, who was traded in early 2011 for Green.

    That being said, there are a handful of things that we've learned about this team and their immediate competition; some good, some bad.

    Luckily, it's still early December and there's plenty of time left to fix the issues involved and maintain the successes.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett Can Still Get It Done

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    When Ray Allen took a cue from LeBron James and took his talents to South Beach, Paul Pierce knew he and Kevin Garnett were going to have to increase their production on the court.

    Perhaps even more important was the extra leadership roles the duo was going to take on, with one of the most revered players in the NBA leaving and a slew of younger players added to the roster. 

    They stepped up.

    Both Pierce, 35, and Garnett, 36, are playing their hearts out and contributing 62.6 minutes of effective basketball each night, with each player on pace to have their most productive statistical seasons per-36 minutes that they've had since they combined forces for the 2007-08 season.

    Many anticipated Garnett was set to retire after last season's heartbreaking Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat, but he instead chose to return to the Celtics for another three years.

    The leadership that the two of them have exhibited is among the best in the NBA, as any rookies would love to come play alongside these two Hall of Famers.

    Just ask Jared Sullinger.

The Atlantic Division Is a Beast

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    Here's what we figured going into this season:

    • The Celtics were going to be great and run away with the division.
    • The Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have all improved, but will fight it out for second place.
    • Toronto will be, as always, horrible.
    • The Nets uniforms are awesome.

    Well, we were wrong. Except about the uniforms and the Raptors.

    Right now, Boston stands fourth in the Atlantic Division, looking up at three intimidating teams that have beaten the Celtics a combined four out of five times this season.

    It should also be noted that the Celtics haven't even had a chance to see the first-place Knicks yet, who are still without Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert.

    There's a long road ahead for Boston to get back to the top of the Atlantic Division, which it has won for five straight years.

The Celtics Still Can't Rebound

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    Remember that time when the Boston Celtics finished last in rebounding in 2011-12?

    (Yes, even behind the Charlotte Bobcats.)

    Well, they're at it again. 

    Currently with a league-low 38.3 rebounds per game, the Celtics clearly still aren't able to corral the misses that they need. Granted, this number is so low because Boston practically treats offensive boards as basketballs covered in flu germs. 

    The team averages 7.3 offensive rebounds per game, last in the league. At least on the defensive end, they're 11th with 31.1. But still, teams that can grab their own missed shots are teams that have more opportunities and, ultimately, more wins.

    Someone should tell this to the Miami Heat, who rank just above the Celtics with 7.8 per game.

Rajon Rondo Is Trapped in a Glass Case of Emotion

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    We have yet to see Rajon Rondo pull a Ron Burgundy-esque meltdown in a phone booth, but it certainly feels like we're getting close.

    The Boston Celtics point guard is one heck of a talent, but it's becoming clear as the years go on that he just isn't maturing and is one heck of a head case as well. 

    After picking a fight with Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries for no apparent reason and then saying that he didn't learn anything from the ensuing suspension, it's frustrating for fans to continue to want to cheer for him.

    Luckily for me, I don't care about all that nonsense. My main concern is that he helps the Boston Celtics win ballgames.

    And he's pretty good at that.

The Team Really, Really Misses Avery Bradley

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    The Boston Celtics allowed 100 points to an opponent nine times last season. 

    So far this season?

    They've allowed 100 points seven times. And it's December 12.

    A big part of that is the absence of Avery Bradley, the Celtics' defensive spitfire and shutdown guard. He's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and should be back on the court by late December or early January, and not a second too soon.

    Last year, once Bradley broke in the rotation and began starting for Ray Allen, the difference was beyond noticeable. Boston held opponents to 41.9 percent shooting and 89.3 points per game last season. In 2012-13, opponents are shooting 44 percent and scoring a whopping 96.7 points per game.

    Over the last five contests, the defense has improved to the tune of 87.4 points, but Bradley will be a huge addition once he comes back.