Anyone with half a brain would agree that a team in the midst of a six-game losing streak going up against the best team in the NBA would be in store for a long afternoon.
So how did the Celtics do with their backs against the wall?
They willed their way to a double-overtime victory against King James and the defending NBA champions. However, midway through the game, we found out that Rondo would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
This was a crushing blow to a team that was already struggling with their best player. Now they would have to fight their way out of last place without him.
Since Rajon Rondo went down, the Celtics have won six games in a row and have become more efficient on both offense and defense. This year, Rondo has been a minus-56 when on the floor, meaning the Celtics have given up 56 more points than scored, which is staggering considering one of Rondo's biggest assets is his defense. In the last six games, the Celtics have averaged almost 103 points per game while giving up only 93 points per game.
Without Rondo, everyone realizes they need to step up and take on a bigger role if the Celtics have any chance of even making the playoffs. Jason Terry, one of the bigger disappointments of the season so far, has become red-hot, shooting almost 57 percent from the field and almost 43 percent from beyond the arc. Both percentages are much higher than his season averages.
Jeff Green has also stepped up his game, averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting 51 percent from the field while also throwing in a few highlight-reel dunks in the process.
Even Courtney Lee has filled in nicely as the starting point guard averaging 10 points per game in his last six games while playing some stingy defense as well.
Clearly, the production from the bench has greatly improved, but the starting lineup deserves some recognition as well. Kevin Garnett has turned back the hands of time recently as he's averaged 17 points per game and over eight rebounds per game since Rondo went down.
Paul Pierce finally looks like he is in shape and has almost taken over as the point forward for the Celtics. Pierce was in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career before Rondo went down. However, since the injury, Pierce has four double-doubles, including one triple-double. He has also hit two game-winning shots in big games against the Heat and the Clippers.
Since Rondo has gone down, the Celtics have been allowed to play "team basketball." With the star point guard, the offense is very predictable. Rondo carries the ball up the court, Garnett comes up for the pick-and-roll, and then Rondo kicks the ball to Pierce or back to Garnett.
Now that the Celtics do not have a true passer, they have become much more balanced and spread the floor, allowing everyone to get their own shot instead of Rondo having to set it up for them. This has helped guys like Terry and Pierce, who spent their whole careers making their own shots.
It is no surprise that Rondo is a difficult teammate and can make it frustrating for anyone that relies on him to get their shots.
There have been reports that Terry and Rondo do not really get along because Rondo was not allowing Terry to get "his shot."
Does this sound familiar?
According Chris Mannix of SI.com, one of the biggest reasons Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach was issues with Rondo and his play on the court . While these reports have never been confirmed by Allen or Rondo, we do know there was an incident with Rondo throwing a Snapple bottle at a monitor and leaving the practice facility just a couple years ago, so it's safe to say that the Rondo-Allen theory is legitimate.
The Celtics have almost brought back their 2007-08 motto of "ubuntu."
Doc Rivers coined this phrase when the Celtics first brought the Big Three together, and the saying helped bring an NBA championship back to Boston. The word "unbuntu" is an African term for "allegiance," which is exactly what the Celtics have needed since losing their star point guard.
While, obviously, six games is an extremely small sample size, it goes to show what the Celtics are capable of doing when their playmakers are allowed make plays.
It is difficult to see the Celtics making a run at a championship. However, it is not unrealistic to see them making it into the second round of the playoffs. Doc Rivers has rallied the troops in the past to defy the odds, specifically in 2010 when they made the NBA Finals, and even last year when they took the Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
While I don't expect another banner anytime soon, I do expect the Celtics to continue to show their heart and dedication that put them back on the map and made them the most storied franchise in NBA history.
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