The loss of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo was supposed to cripple the Boston Celtics. Instead, they just might be playing their best basketball of the season.
As improbable as that sounds, the Celtics’ play as of late has certainly backed up such claims.
It’s a thought that was almost unimaginable just over a week ago, with Boston having dropped six straight and set to host the defending champion Miami Heat.
The light at the end of the tunnel only got dimmer with news that Rondo would be sitting out the contest. That light completely faded out when it was announced at halftime that the 26-year-old would be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Hope, game and season lost.
Or at least we thought.
In valiant fashion, captain Paul Pierce led the Celtics to an impressive 100-98 double-overtime victory. He finished with a triple-double, recording 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
On a down note, the team also lost outstanding rookie forward Jared Sullinger for the rest of the year. On the bright side, the Celtics now stand at 24-23 and boast successes over arguably the top-two teams in the league in the span of four games.
But what’s most impressive is the all-around improvement made by the team during this rather tumultuous stretch.
In the four games without Rondo, Boston is averaging 100.5 points per game, while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor. Both are significant improvements over its season per-game averages of 95.5 points and 45.9 percent shooting.
The Celtics have even managed to rebound better, averaging 40.3 rebounds per game compared to their 39.5 season average.
However, the one area the team was expected to struggle with in the absence of Rondo was its ball distribution.
So far, that has not been the case.
In fact, Boston has actually improved in that category, averaging 24.8 assists per game. With Rondo, the team was only averaging 23.2 per game.
Saying the Celtics are overachieving right now could quite possibly be the understatement of the season.
So who’s stepped up and who’s not quite pulling his weight?
Only players who have averaged at least 10 minutes per game have been included