We all know that the Boston Celtics are only going to go as far as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce take them. After all, they are the two best players on the team, and without Rajon Rondo, their level of play will need to be that much more effective.
On that same token, however, the Celtics are going to need their role players to step up and provide Garnett and Pierce with some support. With Rondo unavailable for the postseason, guys like Jeff Green and Jason Terry must be there in the event that one of Boston's two stars has an off night. If the supporting cast does not play well, the C's can kiss any chance of a playoff run goodbye.
Fortunately for the Celtics, K.G. and Pierce have been getting some help.
Take Brandon Bass for example. Following a miserable start to the season, he has been on fire over the last two months.
After shooting 55 percent from the floor in March, Bass has been absolutely killing it during April, averaging 15 points on 59.5 percent shooting through seven games. His outstanding level of play has allowed Doc Rivers to go with a big starting lineup, keeping Bass at power forward, inserting Green at the 3 and moving Pierce to shooting guard. Now, perhaps the Celtics can bully some teams.
Bass' increase in productivity comes at the perfect time. Remember how well he performed in the playoffs last year? He nearly single-handedly beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of the second round, scoring 18 points in the decisive third quarter to give Boston a 3-2 series lead. He also had some big nights against the Miami Heat. The C's will need that Brandon Bass to show up for the playoffs.
Green has been playing some extraordinary basketball, too. He has been the Celtics' go-to guy at times and has demonstrated the ability to absolutely explode offensively.
What makes Green so good is his versatility. He can put the ball on the floor, post up and hit the three-ball. He's been outstanding from beyond the arc over the last three months, shooting 41.4 percent in February, 42.6 percent in March and 50 percent throughout April. This has made him deadly, as he can pull bigger forwards out to the perimeter and either drain treys or blow past them.
Boston will also need Jeff to step up in a big way in the postseason. Doing so will take a boatload of pressure off of Pierce, and the best part is that Pierce will no longer have to waste all of his energy on defense covering guys such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. The C's have Green for that now, and that will allow for The Truth to focus more on scoring the basketball.
Then there are the guards like Terry, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee.
We know what Bradley is going to bring to the table defensively. He is going to harass opposing ball-handlers and make it nearly impossible for them to get their teams into their desired sets. It would be nice if he could hit come corner triples on top of that, but Bradley's primary task will be shutting down his counterparts.
Lee will have a hand in this, as well. He's also a very solid perimeter defender, and the tandem of him and Bradley is lethal. Expect to see them on the floor together quite a bit. The pair will help force opponents into a grind-it-out type of affair, and that is exactly the type of defense the Celtics excel at. Ranking 16th in the league at 96.6 points per game, Boston is not a high-scoring ballclub, so muddling the pace and disrupting the flow will pay dividends.
Terry's role will be pretty different. Very different, actually.
The C's did not bring in JET for his defensive prowess. They brought him aboard to pick up some slack offensively and nail big shots in big moments. While he has not done that on a consistent basis throughout the regular season, this is the playoffs, and that is when Terry augments his performance into big games.
Terry is a been there, done that kind of guy. He's won a championship and has played in two NBA Finals. He reminds one of a Sam Cassell-type player, someone who can be relatively quiet for the first 40 minutes of a game and then explode down the stretch.
That is why everything Terry has done—or not done—over the course of the 2012-13 campaign goes out the window once the postseason begins. He is a big-game character, a personality you definitely want on your side when the chips are down. He is never afraid of any situation because he has experienced them all.
The Celtics will desperately need JET to be in playoff mode.
Boston also must get contributions from the likes of Chris Wilcox, Jordan Crawford, Terrence Williams and Shavlik Randolph. Wilcox is someone who can get the team and the home crowd energized with some alley-oop dunks; Crawford can provide instant offense; Williams can spell "floor general" on occasion and Randolph has emerged as a dependable rebounder off the bench.
Randolph is averaging 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, and while it is obviously a small sample size given the fact that he has only played in 15 games, it is certainly worth mentioning. Plus, he has posted 11 rebounds per 36 minutes over 110 career contests, so it's not like he hasn't displayed the ability to hit the glass before.
When K.G. goes to the bench, Doc Rivers now has Shavlik to turn to for some rebounding in a pinch. With Garnett truly being the only reliable rebounding big man on the team until Randolph came over, Boston would suffer whenever he went to the pine for a blow. That is why the injury to Jared Sullinger was so crippling. Now, thanks to Randolph flashing some nice savvy on the boards, things do not look as bleak.
All of these role players must be ready to perform. Garnett and Pierce aren't kids anymore. There are going to be stretches where they are exhausted and simply relying on will and determination to push forward. That is when Green, Bass, Terry and everyone else must step in and give Doc Rivers' squad a lift.
Yes, stars may win championships, but they cannot do it alone. They need their teammates to produce as well.