The Boston Celtics are now on a three game winning streak without Rajon Rondo; defeating the Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, and Orlando Magic. On paper the only win that shows any significance would be against Miami, but in the other two games, Celtics fans have had the opportunity to see the bench that they were promised in the preseason. Did the injury to Rajon Rondo open the door for players like Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Jeff Green, who can all create their own offense?
In this stretch of games, Courtney Lee has found a rhythm and finally playing his style of offense. But why now are we seeing him thrive without Rajon Rondo? The Celtics have to run an uptempo offense and in the open floor, Lee is quick and can get to the basket, or if he’s got the outside shot he doesn’t have a defender within five feet of him. In the half court offense with Rondo, Lee rarely gets the ball and when he does he’s not taking the shot. In the last three games when Boston went to the half court set, there was spacing on the floor which allowed Lee to either take the corner three or drive to the hoop.
Defensively, there is a major improvement as well. Alongside Avery Bradley, Lee has disrupted the passing lanes and has created turnovers. The defense wasn’t this active with Rondo, but the Celtics have had to apply more pressure on the opponents guards since he went out. Clearly, on both ends, Courtney Lee has finally found his place, and last night he played like he did for the Orlando Magic in 2009.
For the first time in three weeks, Jason Terry has had his best shooting nights the last few games, scoring double digits in both. Terry is another player benefiting without Rondo, and also thriving in the fast break game. He’s always been known as a shooter, and again, with the new style of offense Boston plays, it allows spacing which gives the guards open shots on the perimeter. Terry has been given the time to step into the shot instead of rushing into a bad one which he did a lot in the half court offense.
Unlike Ray Allen, Terry cannot be fed the ball and make the three point shot in the corner. This season he seems more comfortable with being the trailer on a fast break and taking the wide open shot on the perimeter. Since the Celtics have played the uptempo game a lot more, Jason Terry has been given better looks at the basket and open shots.
Celtics fans have noticed a major difference in the play of Jeff Green. Simply, its because Boston has gone to a faster offense. When he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Green was a very good player, scoring double-digits more consistently than he has in a Celtics uniform. Why? Green isn’t a shooter and in the first half of the season he wasn’t taking the ball to the basket as often as he could. In the last few games and especially last night, Green has taken it to the hoop and sometimes finished with an emphatic dunk.
To his credit, this is what Danny Ainge saw when he traded Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. Green is not incapable, he just isn’t a good player in the half court offense. For the last two years Celtics fans have been disappointed in Green’s play, but seeing him dominate the last few games, it’s clear, he’s better playing in an offense similar to the Thunder’s.
The Celtics may in fact be better without Rajon Rondo. As insane as that may sound, Boston doesn’t have the players that can watch Rondo pound the ball until their is no air left in it. Green and Lee make a living off of an uptempo offense, or by creating their own shots. Without Rondo, Boston doesn’t have a player who sets up the offense, so they have to look to individuals instead.
Tomorrow will be the real test when the Celtics take on the Los Angeles Clippers. If Boston wins convincingly, then it might be time to accept that they might be better without a star point guard. I have to say, in the last few games, I’ve become a believer. This team actually has a chance of going deep into the playoffs, barring any more injuries.