The Celtics are looking to move forward after taking a step back last week.
There is just no predicting these 2012-13 Boston Celtics.
One week they come away looking as if they have finally figured it out, and then the next week they go back to looking as clueless as a soon-to-be-father in the delivery room.
After a positive week that saw the Celtics win two out of three games, the team responded with a sluggish overtime victory and a pair of lopsided losses during last week’s stretch of games.
While the results were disappointing, Boston was able to come away with a very important lesson.
It is a humbling message to swallow, however, each week only serves as a building block.
So without further ado, let's get started with the most recent installment of the Boston Celtics' Starting 5.
Head coach Doc Rivers has been trying to figure out the solution to the whole three-point issue.
Wednesday, Dec. 12 vs. Dallas Mavericks – W 117-115 (2OT)
Friday, Dec. 14 @ Houston Rockets – L 101-89
Saturday, Dec. 15 @ San Antonio Spurs – L 103-88
The Spin: A lackluster double-overtime victory on Wednesday gave fans hope for the Celtics success in the remaining two games of the week. However, even Paul Pierce’s 23.3 points per game on the week was not enough to save the team from disastrous defending that left Boston with a disappointing 1-2 mark on the week.
Last week, I touched on the Celtics’ three-point shooting woes. However, it seems that it is an issue that the team is struggling with on both ends of the court.
As a result, Boston’s opponents have thrived from downtown.
Through 23 games this season, the team ranks No. 18 in opponents’ three-point shooting, allowing teams to hit 35.9 percent of their attempts.
While the number itself is not too bad, when you consider it against the Celtics’ track record during recent years, it becomes worrisome.
Over the past five seasons, Boston has ranked in the top five in the category every year. That includes last season, when the team led the league with an impressive 30.8 percent mark.
Most recently, the Spurs (12-of-25, 48 percent) and the Rockets (10-of-27, 37 percent) have taken advantage of the Celtics’ weakness in defending from range.
Which much of the same defenders in tow, one has to wonder what the exact issue is.
1-6 – The Celtics’ record against the league’s top-10 teams (based on current W-L records).
Five of the team’s six losses have been by eight or more points. The Celtics have lost by an average score of 105-96.
Their only victory came back on Nov. 12 in a 101-95 win against the Chicago Bulls.
The two teams meet again Tuesday night.
Lee has yet to live up to the hype this season.
Don't Bother Unpacking Your Bags
After agreeing to a four-year, $21 million contract with Courtney Lee over the summer, the Celtics thought they had won big.
Three months later, and the team is already reportedly trying to move Lee out of town.
With the 27-year-old’s struggles this season, the news comes as no surprise.
Through 23 games, Lee is averaging 5.9 points per game and shooting only 28.6 percent from three-point range. He has only started nine games for the Celtics on the year.
In return for Lee, Boston would most likely be interested in another big man. It would go a long way in helping the team solve their rebounding woes. The Celtics currently rank last in the league, averaging 38.6 rebounds per game.
With Bradley soon to return, and having Jason Terry producing proficiently, the team would not miss Lee in the slightest.
A Much-Needed Return
On Monday, nearly seven months after he reinjured his shoulder during a playoff game, Avery Bradley completed his first full practice of the season with the Celtics.
It marks the end of a lengthy rehab process for Bradley, who underwent surgery to not one, but both shoulders over the offseason.
However, after a 90-minute session without any setbacks in Chicago, the 22-year-old looks ready to make his return to action.
Speaking on the chances of Bradley returning to the starting lineup, head coach Doc Rivers seemed to hint that it could be a good possibility:
Yeah, but he’s got to get it. He’ll have to earn that and get it but I think on paper, it looks better. But you have to see how it works once he gets back.
With Courtney Lee as his main opposition for the role, almost nobody should be betting against Bradley to regain his rightful position in the starting lineup.
Tweet of the Week
Bus driver twitter.com/RajonRondo/sta…— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 14, 2012
Rajon Rondo took to Twitter to give us all a glimpse of what he would be doing had he not picked up a basketball.
Thankfully for us all, he did.
Terry has proven more effective coming off the bench.
Tuesday, Dec. 18 @ Chicago Bulls – 8:00 p.m. EST
Wednesday, Dec. 19 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 7:30 p.m. EST
Friday, Dec. 21 vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 7:30 p.m. EST
The Spin: After last week’s dreadful showing, the Celtics are in dire need of turning their luck around. Especially with a four-game road trip looming next week—including matchups with three teams with a combined 47-24 record.
While the Cavaliers should provide Boston no difficulties, the other two might prove stiffer obstacles to overcome.
Although the Celtics overcame the Bulls in their first meeting, Chicago has won five of the previous six matchups. However, the Bulls have posted a pedestrian 7-6 record at home this season. Silver lining, perhaps?
Friday’s showdown with the Bucks will mark the fourth time these two teams have met already this year. Milwaukee took two of the three contests and have won four of their last five games. Boston will surely be underdogs in this one.
Big week ahead for the Celtics.
Better off the Bench?
How many times have you heard of a player being more successful as a substitute?
In an odd turn of events, that just so happens to be the case with Jason Terry.
After an awful start to the season by shooting guard Courtney Lee, Doc Rivers opted to give Terry a shot at a starting role.
Normally, it would be a move that would not only help boost the spirits of a player, but would also bump up their on court production. With Terry, it was anything but.
In fact, the 13-year veteran has actually performed better off the bench.
In 16 games as a starter, Terry has averaged 11.5 points, 2.2 assists and 31.9 minutes per game. Furthermore, he has shot 36.0 percent from three-point range and 44.7 percent from the field.
The numbers only got worse this month.
In five starts from Dec. 1 to Dec. 12, Terry shot 19-of-58 (32.7 percent) from the floor, including 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) from downtown.
Soon after, the struggling guard was dropped back to his usual sixth man role.
In two games since, Terry has thrived off the bench.
Against the Rockets he shot 4-of-10 from the field—4-of-8 from three-point range—while scoring 12 points in 26 minutes. Terry followed that up with a 18-point outburst on 6-of-13 shooting—4-of-9 from beyond the arc—against the Spurs.
On the season, Terry averages 12.1 points, 2.0 assists and 26.4 minutes per game off the bench.
There's no doubt about it. Rondo is the man in Boston.
“Is Rajon Rondo a player you can build your team around? Or should the Celtics look to trade to rebuild for the future?”
-Jared (Clinton, MA)
To answer both questions, yes and yes.
There is no denying that Rondo is arguably the best point guard in the league right now. If you do not believe me, a quick glance at his stat line might convince you otherwise.
In 20 games this season, the 26-year-old is averaging 12.9 points, 12.1 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 37.9 minutes per game. Furthermore, he is shooting at a career-high 51.1 percent from the floor.
Among point guards, Rondo leads the field in shooting percentage, rebounds, assists and double-doubles (14). He also ranks fourth in steals.
Who would not want to build a team around a player like Rondo?
Sure, he might have a few random bouts of immaturity and attitude problems to deal with—most recently his bout with Kris Humphries in defense of Kevin Garnett. But who doesn’t have those sort of issues at the age of 26?
But while Boston should definitely stick to building around Rondo, that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t look to trade to bring in one more superstar.
If you look at the other elite point guards in the league, Russell Westbrook has Kevin Durant, while Chris Paul has Blake Griffin.
Who does Rondo have? Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce?
Yeah, maybe back in 2008. But with both players in decline, and on the wrong side of 30, the Celtics need to look elsewhere to bring in that second superstar.
Rondo cannot do it alone.
“Does the defense get any better once Avery Bradley is healthy?”
-Matt (Boston, MA)
Yes, no doubt about it.
The Celtics are currently struggling to find an identity on the defensive end of the floor this season.
Through the first 14 games of the season, Boston went 8-6 and ranked No. 22 in the league, allowing opponents an average of 100.1 points per game. During that span, the team gave up 100-plus points seven times—a feat they only allowed opponents to accomplish nine times all of last season.
During the team’s next six games, the Celtics seemed to figure things out, allowing opponents an average of 88.7 points per game. Surprisingly, the team was only 3-3 during that stretch.
In their past three games, Boston has returned to their old ways, allowing opponents an average of 103.6 points per game. After going six games without giving up 100 points, the team has given up 100-plus in each of their last three.
The Celtics currently rank No. 16 in the league, allowing opponents an average of 97.9 points per game. Furthermore, Boston ranks No. 19 in opponent field goal percentage (45.0 percent) and No. 17 in opponent three-point percentage (35.0 percent).
Bradley’s presence will surely aid the defense.
With Bradley on the court last season, the Celtics ranked No. 2 in the league in defense, allowing opponents only 89.3 points per game. During the 28 games that Bradley started, opponents only managed 84.7 points per game.
Those five points could have been the difference between the team’s current 12-11 record and a possible 16-7 mark.
Then there is Bradley’s excellent perimeter defense.
His on-ball defense would allow far less dribble penetration from opposing guards. Which in return would limit the amount of time the big men would have to rotate, thus eliminating some of the costly points in the paint that the Celtics have been giving out like candy as of late.
While Bradley’s return definitely gives fans much to be optimistic about, a patient approach is suggested. After missing seven months of playing time, it will take the youngster a while to get reacquainted to the flow of the game.
But once he does, watch out.
Also check out: 4 Players the Celtics Must Pursue Before the Trade Deadline
Comments, suggestions or just want to get your question posted in next week's edition? Just send them along to Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988