The win against the NBA champions despite not having Rajon Rondo, now out for the season after tearing his ACL, proves just one thing: For the Boston Celtics to have any sort of chance of making anything happen this season, they need Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at their best all the time, and I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.
Sometimes energy from the crowd is enough to lift an inferior team against a much better opponent. The Celtics were playing the Heat without their best player, Rajon Rondo, but great defense and a fantastic game from Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds) and a triple double from Paul Pierce (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and the shot that won the game in double overtime) were enough to edge the Miami Heat.
There’s that funny statistic about the Boston Celtics being more efficient on offense without Rajon Rondo, but when small samples expand to something that happens on a more regular basis, they tend to level at a certain point. And it’s not that the Celtics’ offense was so efficient on Sunday; they only 40.9% of their field goals attempt and needed 58 minutes of basketball to score 100 points. They are the worst in the NBA when it comes to scoring on transition, and their 14 points were goon enough to tie the Heat on a terrible day for them.
But without Rondo, it’s going to be about stepping up for pretty much everyone. Before the season began, the Boston Celtics looked like a team that believes in its title credentials; the only one, actually. Now they have to continue on that road without a head start, without Rajon Rondo, and with a 21-23 record. There are talks about blowing up the whole deal.
Because without Rondo, many think that even with some incredible physical effort from the old men on this team, the Celtics don’t have a point guard. Paul Pierce can play the point forward, but there isn’t anyone to make up for the points he won’t be making, not to mention his awful shooting this season at 41.9% from the field. Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley in the backcourt every time? Doc Rivers can get creative, but there’s a limit to what he can do with the tools at his disposal.
There is the Chicago Bulls approach – fierce defense and just pulling through with hustle. It’s good enough for being the third best team in the East at this point, but that’s not the same: The Chicago Bulls are a much better defensive team. Kevin Garnett can’t do what he used to, and the physical, bad-boy approach just doesn’t carry around with them anymore, because they don’t have the plays and the physicality to back it up.
Don’t say it’s over, but maybe it is. The Celtics are going to take a good, hard look at their roster, and will have to decide if there’s a chance of achieving anything this season. If not, maybe starting a series of trades and beginning to build for the future, because no one believes that Garnett and Pierce are players who can play meaningful parts on a title-caliber team anymore, is the right way to go.