5 Real Reasons Behind Celtics' Success Without Rajon Rondo
With Rondo and Sullinger both out for the season, the Celtics are digging deep and powering through the injury bug with a seven-game winning streak, a season high.
For the last couple of seasons, the Celtics have heard from the so-called experts that it is their final year together.
When Rondo went down with an ACL tear, some thought the team should throw in the towel, blow up the roster and plan for life after Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
But, the Celtics have bounced back.
This "too-old", "too-injured" team is winning games.
Here are the five real reasons behind the Celtics success without Rajon Rondo.
1. An Easy Schedule
The Celtics have won the close games during their seven-game winning streak.
It all started with an overtime win over the Miami Heat back on Jan. 27 at home.
The Heat are one of the NBA's best teams and boast the top record in the Eastern Conference at 34-14. Yet, other teams that the Celtics have faced during their winning streak have been mediocre all season.
The wins over the Heat and Denver Nuggets (in triple overtime) are impressive and will boost the team's morale. But, the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers are all teams currently outside the playoffs.
The combined record of those four teams is 77-129.
The Celtics should be winning games against opponents who have losing records, and the woes that each of those teams are suffering.
The Clippers had lost seven out of their last ten, including a loss to the Celtics, while battling injuries to Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford.
While the Celtics have prevailed in close games and are playing better as a team, they have had a relatively easy schedule since Rondo's season-ending injury.
2. Opposing Teams Injuries
The span of games during the Celtics' winning streak have not only come against struggling teams, but also injury-plagued teams.
In the game against the Orlando Magic, an already dismal team this season with a record of 15-36, the Celtics faced a team without former Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis, leading scorer Aaron Afflalo and point guard Jameer Nelson, who injured his forearm during the game.
As noted in the slide above, the Celtics next opponent, the Los Angeles Clippers, were without Chris Paul.
The trend of team's with injured impact players continued.
The Toronto Raptors Andrea Bargnani returned to the lineup, but he struggled and only put up 13 points in limited minutes.
Injuries to key players always plays a role in a long 82-game NBA regular season.
While the Celtics have prevailed and battled through the Rondo injury, many of their opponents during the winning streak have suffered from arguably more devastating injuries.
3. The Long-Awaited Emergences of Jeff Green and Jason Terry
The Celtics have banded together to play better team basketball, and two of the players who have stepped up are forward Jeff Green and guard Jason Terry.
Up until the Rondo injury, both players had underperformed. But in the last seven games, Green and Terry have increased their roles and productivity at the offensive end.
Since Rondo's injury, Green is averaging 14 points per game and shooting 52.5 percent for the floor. Both of which are up from his season averages of 10 points per game and a field goal percentage of 44.
Along with Green's better offensive performance, Terry has improved a lot since the team lost Rondo.
According to ESPN.com's player page from Jason Terry:
Terry has been shooting very well. In his last seven games, he has hit 57.1 percent of his shots en route to 11.3 points and 1.6 3-pointers per outing. Despite his points being low for the season, his percentages are creeping up to career norms.
Green and Terry have been bigger contributors to the Celtics squad since Rondo went down.
ESPN's Marc Stein said in his Weekend Dime that "Jeff Green and Jason Terry shooting lights out."
When two players shoot "lights out," it is bound to help a team pick up some extra wins.
4. Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett continues to add to his storied career.
In the Celtics game against the Lakers, Garnett surpassed the 25,000-point mark with a 15-point performance.
Garnett joked after the game about reaching that milestone.
According to ESPN.com's recap, Garnett said, "Some day when I'm rocking in a rocking chair having a cigar and thinking what I've done, I'm sure it'll make some sense to me, (but) the first priority was the Lakers."
Garnett always remains focused on the immediate goal, which is winning basketball games and making a playoff push.
Clearly Garnett's leadership and focus on playing basketball and winning games is showing. Since Rondo's injury, Garnett is averaging 21.3 points per game on 55 percent shooting and 9.7 rebounds per game.
In the recent seven-game streak, Garnett has looked rejuvenated and as confident as ever. His increased level of play brings back memories of the 2008 NBA championship and his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garnett is elevating this Celtics team in their time of need.
With Garnett playing this effectively, the Celtics can ride him to more success.
5. Paul Pierce: The Facilitator
Paul Pierce has been called many different names.
"The Truth." "Superman."
But, now he can officially have the new name of "The Facilitator."
Pierce has increased his assists since the Celtics lost Rondo, who was averaging a league-leading 11.1 assists per game.
In Rondo's absence, Pierce has averaged 7.3 assists per game. In five of the last seven games, Pierce has put up at least five assists, including 10 assists against the Miami Heat and 14 assists in a triple-overtime win against the Denver Nuggets.
Pierce is very comfortable and confident in his new role. According to the Boston Celtics twitter account:
Boston Celtics @celtics
Pierce on his role w/o Rondo: " I know what I'm capable of. With him out... I'm going to be more of a facilitator for this club."
Pierce wants to win games and will do whatever it takes. But, right now he is doing more than facilitating.
Pierce is doing it all.
In his last seven games, he has gone for two triple-doubles against the Heat and the Nuggets—the team's two most difficult games in that stretch.
Pierce is also averaging 18.9 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game since Rondo's departure. And, like Rondo, Pierce is now proving to be a triple-double threat every night. (Rondo had five triple-doubles so far this season.)
Pierce may be 34 years old, but his outstanding play as a facilitator is the biggest reason for the Celtics' recent success.