Basketball is a team sport, but it usually hinges on a few more important pieces. Without Rajon Rondo, it’s hard to see who is going to run the Boston Celtics in his absence, unless Paul Pierce plays at an All-Star level every single moment he’s on the floor.
Without an actual point guard to fill in the huge hole left by Rondo tearing his ACL, the Celtics are playing with Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee in their backcourt. That means that Paul Pierce is the de facto point-forward, and Kevin Garnett having to play a little more like he did when he was the all-able leader of the Minnesota Timberwolves for a decade or so.
For the second straight time, the Boston Celtics didn’t do too badly without Rondo. After a surprising, hard fought 100-98 win against the Miami Heat, the Celtics didn’t have too much trouble hosting the Sacramento Kings. Pierce didn’t have a triple double, but did lead the team with 16 points on a very conservative 5-9 from the field, adding 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Pierce hasn’t had consecutive double double games in over two years, but that is what it’s going to take for the Celtics to climb back from 22-23 record and make a push for a better seeding in the East, not to mention those nibbling at their back, trying to take away the final spots headed in to the playoffs.
Against a Sacramento team that’s terrible on defense and doesn’t really have any sort of game plan except try to make the most of their individual talent without any real team cohesion, the Celtics had no problem winning 99-81, including 37 points in the second quarter, their most points in a quarter this season. They scored 39 points in the regular season finale last season.
Kevin Garnett, who needs to step it up as well, didn’t do too much offensively, scoring 13 points and added 5 assists. What was important was the rest of the fellas from the bench stepping in: Bradley scored 11 points, while Brandon Bess, Jeff Green and Jason Terry scored 12 points each. The Celtics will find some nights quite a struggle to put up points, although their defense might now be better without Rondo in the lineup. Pierce isn’t the kind of guy who is going to score 20-25 points each night and carry this team on his back.
However, it is very likely that Pierce, still the biggest offensive threat on the Celtics, something that’s been a given for over a decade, can make them almost as good as they were with Rondo (which was that good this season) if he keeps defenses honest but continues to play the actual point guard effectively. He can still draw the double teams and be effective in the post game. From there, it’s up to the bench and the players around him to become consistent on the offensive side, something that hasn’t really happened this season on a regular basis.
There is a playoff in the future for the Boston Celtics, who at the moment aren’t breaking up their package and committing to the future right away. For that to be the right decision, Paul Pierce needs to play the best basketball he has since the championship year.