Playing Small Ball Won't Be Easy, but It's Necessary for the Boston Celtics

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls and Jeff Green #8 and Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics jockey for position during a free-throw at the United Center on November 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Celtics defeated the Bulls 101-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Boston Celtics have made a ton of changes over the past month thanks to the return of Avery Bradley, the injury to Rajon Rondo and now the season-ending back surgery that Jared Sullinger will undergo. All this is going to force this team to play small ball, and it's going to be a trial.

In Boston's 106-104 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Clippers, it was able to get contributions from everyone who played and just hold on long enough to win.

It's maddening watching the Celtics continue to win games despite every bit of common sense flowing in the opposite direction, but they've been able to play well since the injury to Rondo.

The Celtics are a perfect 4-0 since Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL. (Boston was 0-6 in Rondo's last 6 games before injury).

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 3, 2013

If you ask me straight up why the Celtics have won their first four games since Rondo's injury, the only thing I would be able to come up with is that they're winning out of spite.

They're still doing a lot of the same things with the starting lineup, and it's working, but after that it gets weird. They haven't suddenly inserted some new big man into the lineup to soak up Sullinger's free minutes.

They've turned to going small.

Kevin Garnett is going to be stuck in his 27- to 35-minute-per-game range for the remainder of the season in order to keep him healthy for the playoffs, Chris Wilcox is going to have to be playing out of his mind if he ever hopes to see more than 10 minutes in a game, and Jason Collins will get a little more love than he has in the past month, meaning he'll actually see the court.

Otherwise, that means we're going to see a lot of Jeff Green at the power forward spot, and even a minute or two of Paul Pierce playing the 4.

For those of you keeping track at home, that means Pierce has played every position this year besides the center spot, and that one's not too far off.

For a solid four minutes in the first half, Boston ran out a lineup of Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox. Hell, for a few seconds they even ran Courtney Lee into the mix instead of Wilcox.

That put the Celtics on the floor with a point guard, two combo guards, a 'tweener forward and a slow, angry, short center.

Things are going to get weird for the Celtics.

A positive that comes from Green playing at the bigger forward spot is that he's actually played better as a big man this season, despite standing 6'8" on a good day, and 6'9" if you listen to what the Celtics have him listed as.

The Celtics have watched as Green as a power forward has helped the offense pick up the pace of the offense, and the defense hasn't fallen apart in the process. The C's average 1.3. points more per 100 possessions than they give up.

What really makes this difficult for the Celtics is that they've been a team with a painfully slow offense for years now. Suddenly changing that for the sake of a new system is going to be a difficult ordeal.

The starting lineup will continue to play as they've always played, as the only real difference now is that they've got Courtney Lee in the starting lineup instead of Rajon Rondo.

That's going to be a bit painful for the flow of the offense, which is frightening to think about after they've limped this far into the season. But in the end they're just going to be doing what they've always done: playing nasty.

Boston's playoff blueprint is to ugly the game to a horrific degree, have it come down to a small number of possessions, and control those

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 4, 2013

Now that we've seen the Celtics play a few games without Rondo, I've got a bit more faith that they can make the playoffs without him, although it's still very much up in the air.

However, it's going to be very interesting to see what they do when the playoffs do come along, should they be included.

Are they going to go ahead and pile minutes onto Kevin Garnett, or are they going to see what they can do with a small-ball lineup out on the floor every once in a while?

It seems as if they've got a lot of time to figure it out, so it's got to be something to keep an eye on over the course of the next few weeks.