There has been a lot of hypothetical discussion around how the Boston Celtics would fare without their starting point guard and assist machine, Rajon Rondo. With Rondo hurting his hamstring we have all got to see just how the Celtics can survive without their best player.
The Celtics lost both games without Rondo, the first against a Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City, going down by five points, and the second against the Toronto Raptors, a team with no stars and nine losses to their name, by a mere point. While the results may not look great, the Celtics showed they can still be a fearsome team without Rondo.
While a loss against Oklahoma City without Kevin Durant doesn't look good on paper, Oklahoma City is a young team with a lot of future all-stars like Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green (who didn't player either) and they are going to pull off surprise wins all through this season as they develop into the dominant team they will certainly become.
The Toronto Raptors are undeniably one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference at the moment, and will certainly bruise the Celtics' pride. This however may not be an awful thing, as hopefully Boston will learn not to expect a victory against teams that have less talent and so they won't go into the game with a forgone conclusion mentality.
Both losses exposed the biggest flaw in the Celtics current game, the teams inability to play a solid four quarters of their high-intensity defence. Boston are among the best teams defensively in the NBA, though, possibly due to the ages of the starting line-up, the team are having a lot of trouble playing the full four quarters. If they can find away to translate their solid three quarters into a full four, they could be as dominant as the Lakers currently are.
The biggest upside to the couple of losses without Rondo was the excellent games played by the back-up point guards. While Boston obviously heavily relies on Rondo to create plays—with 15 assists a game it would be impossible not to—the team has a quality back-up on the bench, to come out and score in a way that Rondo, at the moment, cannot.
Delonte West took a leadership role in the game against the Thunder and Nate Robinson started against the Raptors. Both players have checkered histories in the NBA but seem to have fit into the Celtics team perfectly (despite reports of West punching the disappointing Von Wafer at a practice).
Delonte West's game against the Thunder did not show statistically why he is such a talented player, only playing 17 minutes. He ended the game with one rebound and seven points to his name, though he took control when the Celtics fell behind in the third quarter. This may seem disappointing after his excellent debut, but apparently he is struggling with back issues. Despite his personal problems, West has always played at a high calibre and there is no reason to think this won't continue with the Celtics.
Nate Robinson's start against the Raptors, playing 35 minutes, showed fans why he can be such an explosive player. While he doesn't create plays like Rondo, finishing with only two assists, he is fast and athletic, and outscored each of the big three with 22 points. While Robinson will not always fit into the starting line-up, he will hopefully be able to provide a lot of energy and production off the bench in a short amount of time—scoring 16 of his 22 points in the first quarter.
Rondo is not an injury prone player, and should be back any time, though it is good for Celtics fans to know that the team can survive without the star point guard. Despite two losses, the team was still able to be very competitive against teams who played very well.