The Boston Celtics have gone 4-0 without Rajon Rondo. But don't expect this to last.
Teams rally over small sample sizes to produce great outcomes, but in the long run, not having the league's leading assist man is going to catch up to the Celtics.
That's not to say the C's haven't made some great strides with Rajon Rondo. Rondo has always been known to gamble a lot defensively, which leaves the Celtics in a state of being behind defensively when those gambles don't work out.
With Courtney Lee starting in No. 9's place, this hasn't been a problem. There's been a lot less dribble penetration allowed.
It must be considered that the four teams the Celtics have defeated are a mix of two of the league's best and two of the worst. The wins over the Clippers and Heat were by two-point margins, and three of the Celtics' next four games come against sub-.500 teams. Perhaps the real test for the Celtics will be when they go for their Western Conference road trip later this month (Feb. 19).
The Celtics also suffered another blow when they found out Jared Sullinger would be out for the remainder of the season due to his back. Sully had emerged as a solid producer off the Boston bench, and the team was already short on bigs. Without Sullinger, they are one player less deep.
Compounding the problem they've lost their backup power forward is the fact that Rondo himself is a great rebounder. His absence from the court means that other Celtic players have to step up and grab some of those boards.
If only it were that simple. Rondo grabs the long rebounds, the erratic ones, chases down loose balls and affects the game in so many different ways. Moreover, with Rondo in the backcourt, the C's have an offensive presence who can augment Avery Bradley's lack of production on that end of the court.
Courtney Lee is not the offensive talent Rondo is, and that will become more apparent as time goes on. Lee is a fine shooter and a replacement-level starter offensively, but Rondo is starting in the All-Star Game for a reason.
Ultimately, many feel the Celtics are fighting a lost cause anyway. A poll on Celtics blog Hardwood Houdini found that 43 percent of voters felt the Celtics would be bounced in the first round of the playoffs. 16 percent felt the team would fall in the second round, while 12 percent predicted they would reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Remarkably, 29 percent of voters thought the Celtics would still reach the Finals, and a full five-sixths of that population believed they would win the title.
Yes, there are delusional voters on team blogs. But the fact that the majority of the fans of a team frequenting its blog feels the team has no chance of going past the second round doesn't bode well for the team's chances.
The Celtics have a lot going for them as a basketball team, and they are going to win games. The four-game win streak sans Rondo makes that abundantly clear. It's just that a team doesn't lose an All-Star and remain an elite.
The Celtics aren't quite a car without an engine, but they just dropped an economical four cylinder into their sports car.