The Boston Celtics have won four straight in the midst of losing their best player to a season ending ACL injury. They also lost Jared Sullinger only one game–three actual days–later. They’ve been absolutely demolishing teams since Rondo went down. They beat the Sacramento Kings by 18, the Orlando Magic by 13, and they beat the Los Angeles Clippers by only two because they took their foot off of the gas.
So what has changed? Why is Boston winning now as opposed two when two of their better players are on the floor? Well, for one, defensively the team has turned it up a notch. Rondo is one of the better defenders in the NBA, but he’s also one of the laziest at times. He has the tendency to gamble on things and that can lead to some quick scores by opponents. Playing recovery defense isn’t always beneficial to a team and that’s obvious. Sometimes it works out, but other times it allows your opponent to have easy looks. Especially when you’re playing the point guard position. Your job is to guard the point of attack.
Now, with Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee in, the perimeter defense has flourished. Before today’s matchup, the Celtics were allowing less than 88 points per 100 possessions according to ESPN.com. That’s obviously not a sustainable total but its a positive number for this stretch. The Celtics have needed that defensive boost all season long.
They’ve started to play point guard by committee as well. There’s been a lot more ball movement in the absence of Rondo, who delivered the ball once a look manifested. The Celtics have done a great job of passing the ball to create looks as opposed to trying to do it themselves like Rondo would. They don’t really have a guy who’s as good as he is at creating for others.
Paul Pierce and Jason Terry have done an excellent job of playing the role of the distributor in Rondo’s absence. Jeff Green has been able to play better because of all the passing and he hasn’t been a wanderer on offense like he was before. Of course, this simplified offense isn’t something that’s here to stay. But if the Celtics can tweak it a bit next season when Rondo returns, they’ll be just fine.