Boston Celtics: The 5 Most Effective Lineup Combinations

Chaz SuretteCorrespondent IApril 8, 2011

Boston Celtics: The 5 Most Effective Lineup Combinations

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    It's that time special time toward the end of the NBA regular season where coaches on every playoff-bound team start poring over the stats of every player on the roster and try to create their lineups for the postseason.

    Starting with the project starting five, head coaches and their assistants attempt to create fine-tuned combinations of players that serve various roles in a game situation, be it lock-down defense, high-percentage shooting, court-pounding speed, and any other quality needed to conquer opponents.

    The Boston Celtics are no different. They will need to keep their lineups fresh and varied, complex enough to keep opponents guessing and on edge, but not so convoluted that players struggle to find their roles on the roster. Head coach Doc Rivers and his staff are masters at this, and I'm confident they'll find ways to outsmart the Green's major opponents in the East.

    Regardless, I figured I'd help them out a little bit. Here, I'll present my XX player combinations that will best be able to fulfill major roles on the court, and I'll offer some insight on how the Celtics can return to the Finals for one last go-around.

1. the Starting Lineup

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    Here is my projected Boston Celtics starting lineup for the 2011 NBA Playoffs:

    PG: Rajon Rondo

    SG: Ray Allen

    PF: Kevin Garnett

    SF: Paul Pierce

    C: Jermaine O'Neal*

    *Subject to change at any time due to the Boston Celtics Injury Curse

    This should come as no surprise to anyone, and I'll say very little on the subject. Four of these five guys have been in the starting lineup since October of 2007, and they'll naturally be ready to go when the first 82 games are complete.

    The only question mark comes at center. I'm giving Jermaine O'Neal the starting job here, as he's finally back with the team and has quite a bit of playoff experience under his belt. I'd love to get Shaq back at starting center, but he's nowhere near 100%, despite his expected return Sunday night against Detroit. I highly doubt he'll be ready to start as well as play significant minutes by the time the postseason kicks off. Jermaine, assuming he stays healthy, can do the job for now.

2. Defense

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    They say that defense wins championships, and this year is no different, especially for the Celtics. As a team, they have the best defense in the NBA, giving up an average of only 90.9 points per game. Boston will have to take that defense into the postseason, as they will likely go up against hot-shooting teams like the Heat or the Bulls.

    Here's how I see the defensive lineup shaking out:

    PG: Rajon Rondo

    SG: Von Wafer

    PF: Glen Davis

    SF: Paul Pierce

    C: Kevin Garnett

    I know exactly what at least some of you are thinking, but allow me to explain. Ray Allen's a great shooter, and he's an invaluable asset to this team, but at this stage in his career, he's not going to get too physical on defense. I don't blame him; I'd rather him focus on getting open for three-pointers.

    From what I've seen of Von Wafer, both on TV and in person, he's a pretty good defender. He's younger, so he can play a far more physical style of basketball than Ray Allen can. I'd give him minutes in the event of a big defensive stop.

    Despite his abilities in the post, I'm not convinced Jermaine O'Neal is as all that great on defense. If it's true that KG has lost a step or two, then J.O. has lost at least three or four. I'd much rather have KG anchor the interior defense alongside Glen Davis, who can use his wide frame to clog the paint. Not only that, he may even dive for a ball or two!

3. Shooting

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    It seems that once the Celtics get going on offense, they're almost unstoppable. Not only will they need to shut down teams on defense, they'll need to out-gun them on offense as well. Here's what I think is there best lineup for shooting (for the purposes of this lineup, I'll be focusing on more outside shooting rather than post play):

    PG: Delonte West

    SG: Ray Allen

    F: Jeff Green

    F: Paul Pierce

    F: Sasha Pavlovic

    I'm going a bit smaller here, and as I said, I'm looking at the outside shooting. I'm going a little collegiate here and using three forwards. I also realize I've taken away all post presence, but I feel as if it's two fold, you gain outside shooting, and you focus your defense on the perimeter as well.

    Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are likely the two best shooters on this team, and Jeff Green did remarkably well in OKC behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If he can get some minutes, he'll do very well. Delonte West is also a good option, as he play backup to Rajon Rondo and can shoot from the outside as well.

4. Speed

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    Speed may be tough for this team, espcially with their advanced age. However, if they ever need a speed advantage (maybe against the Knicks or the Heat?), here's who I think the Celts needs to go with:

    PG: Rajon Rondo

    G: Ray Allen

    G: Delonte West

    F: Paul Pierce

    F: Jeff Green

    Again, I'll three forwards and take away the inside game. If we're going on pure speed, these are the guys who can do it, led by the unbelievable quickness of Rajon Rondo. Ray Allen never stops moving; if you watch him during a game, he's always in motion somewhere on the court. Same thing with Delonte; like Ray Allen but smaller and bit more erratic, but still tough to defend. Pierce and Green aren't too sluggish on their feet either, and if they can stay in motion and get open, this lineup can give opponents problems, provided it's given time to jel and become fine-tuned.

5. Crunch-Time

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    This is arguably the most important of them all. In the closing minutes of a close game, the Celtics need to be at their absolute best at everything they do, be it offense, defense, or anything and everything in between. The Celts will need to find every way possible to gain the extra edge over their opponent.

    This lineup shouldn't be very surprising, but this is who the Celtics need on the floor to close out games:

    PG: Rajon Rondo

    SG: Ray Allen

    PF: Kevin Garnett

    SF: Paul Pierce

    C: Shaquille O'Neal*

    If AND ONLY IF he's actually healthy.

    Just like the starting lineup, there isn't a ton of question here. These guys know how to win games when they matter the most. Despite their troubles late in the regular season, these are some of the most clutch players in the NBA come playoff time. As I indicated, I only Shaq playing if he's healthy. If not, than I'd much rather have Glen Davis in the paint alongside KG.

    We obviously can't account for variables like injuries as well as over- and underachievement by individual players. However, I think that these lineups are a good guess as to how this team can best navigate the playoffs, and hopefully bring home Banner 18.