The Celtics lost 83-81 to the New Orleans Hornets This Friday, New Year's Eve. It marked their second straight loss, and third in the last four games.
In what has become a disturbing trend, Celtics players have begun hitting the deck like flies. It seems as if with each passing game, another key player is going down with injury.
Most notably, starters Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett have both been held out of games with injury issues. This loss to the Hornet's marks Garnett's first game away from the team, and Rondo's seventh.
It was pretty clear from the onset, however, that the Celtics missed Rajon Rondo more than they did Kevin Garnett. Garnett is the emotional and defensive leader of this team, and while they did at times lack the necessary passion to pull out a win, they defended very well for the most part, limiting the Hornets to 43% shooting and just 83 points.
Moreover, it was clear that Rondo's facilitation of the offense was sorely missed. Paul Pierce, who has been doing his best Rajon Rondo impersonation since 'Jon went down with an ankle injury (averaging over 7 assists per game since then), had six turnovers. Starters Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Allen both had three, and Glen Davis had two. All in all, the C's finished with 17 total turnovers, as they struggled to move the ball.
Players were uncertain about who was in charge of the offense. Often times, precious seconds ticked away on the shot clock before the Celtics were able to get into a half court set. As a result, the C's took a number of bad shots, something that is very uncharacteristic of the most efficient offense in the NBA (league leading 50% FG percentage coming into today's game).
Nate Robinson continued his less effective play as well. While he shot 5-10 from the field, and only turned the ball over once, Nate was unable to dominate the game at any one point. This isn't really Nate's fault, and it's not for lack of trying.
Since the Celtics have suffered so many injuries, players are trying to fill roles that they aren't used to. They're trying to do to much on the floor. Paul Pierce's six turnovers today and Glen Davis taking an early shot-clock three, when the the C's were down by three late in the game are indicative of that fact.
Because of all this, Nate is having to play the role of a point guard. Nate is doing as well a job as anyone was to expect, considering he's a two-guard not a point guard, but he's nowhere close to being as creative on the break as Rondo is.
Additionally, when Ray Allen finally started to heat up in the fourth quarter, all of a sudden the Celtics could not find ways to get him the ball, and nor could they set the necessary screens to get him open. Their inability to find the hot hand and establish any sort of rhythm on the offensive end cost them the game in the end.
And not to mention Chris Paul had his way with the Celtics perimeter defense, scoring 20 points on 7-15 shooting, and dishing out 11 assists.
One of the biggest knocks on Rondo, other than his lack of a consistent jumper, is the belief that Rondo's success is just a product of playing with great offensive players. Critics have said that anyone could do the job that Rondo is doing, just by being out there on the floor.
Well, it's never be so evident as it is now. That belief is completely false.
He dictates the pace of a game like few others in the NBA. He keeps some of the greatest scorers in the game all satisfied, all in rhythm. He pushes the ball in transition, creates for his teammates, and is one of the elite perimeter defenders in the NBA.
A lot of what Rondo does doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but it's clear as day: the Celtics need him back more than anyone else.
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