It seems that, as of late, something isn't quite right with the Boston Celtics.
Over the last seven games, Boston has gone 3-4, and are now tied with the red-hot Chicago Bulls for the lead in the Eastern Conference. To make matters worse, their losses have come to some lower-quality teams, including the 27-43 Los Angeles Clippers (at TD Garden, adding insult to all kinds of injury), the 36-34 Philadelphia 76ers, the 22-45 New Jersey Nets and the 36-34 Houston Rockets.
Through these seven games, they've scored more than 100 points only once, and have scored fewer than 80 points twice.
To what do we attribute all of this? Probably not the new acquisitions, as they have shown themselves to be quite capable of playing with this team. No, the cause of the Celtics' problems is the one that Celtics fans have known since the beginning of the season would be their Achilles' heel if it came to fruition.
It's been the play of point guard Rajon Rondo.
Over the last 10 games, Rondo has averaged 7.0 points per game (compared to 10.2 on the season), and 8.4 assists per game (compared to 11.2 on the season). He's also shot an abysmal .356 from the field, down from .482 for the season.
It's clearly affecting the rest of the team's play, as the pace of the game is slowed due to Rondo's inability to move the ball. Opponents have been to exploit this sluggishness at times and move the ball better and play at a faster pace than Boston has been able to do.
Clearly, this is due in large part to Rondo's having to play with a myriad of injuries. He has a sprained ankle and plantar fasciitis, and he jammed his pinky finger during the game against New Orleans to the point that it became numb.
Considering he only now has a true backup in Carlos Arroyo, it makes sense that he's been getting banged up, considering his playing an average of over 37 minutes per game.
Rondo's injuries are going to affect his game, and it's quite possible that he's slowing down his play because of them, trying his best to run the offense at a slower pace to try and rest himself for the Playoffs. Celtics fans will bemoan this lack of urgency, as Boston slipped to fourth in the East after going 27-27 after Christmas and 50-32 on the season.
I don't foresee that happening. Sure, the Celts which check down and try and coast to the Playoffs. They may slip to second and maybe third, but they'll win at least a few more games; I predicted 57-25 at the start of the year, and I think that's still very possible.
So, in the end, I don't think there's anything out-of-the-ordinary wrong with Rajon Rondo. I think his injuries are just catching up to him. Look for Doc Rivers to give Arroyo more minutes to let Rondo heal and prepare for the postseason.
If they Celtics lose some games, they'll still be okay. Even if they slip out of the top of the Eastern Conference, they are still very capable of a run for banner 18. Last year showed that even at the advanced age of the veterans, they can still hang with the best in the NBA.