Instead of crumbling into pieces following the injury the ended Rajon Rondo’s season, the Boston Celtics turned to the man that has been their best player and last Final’s MVP to carry them into the postseason, and Paul Pierce is having no problem adjusting to new/old role.
It’s not as if to say that Pierce wasn’t important early on, but it was clear Doc Rivers put the keys in Rondo’s hand to carry the Celtics into a new era, as the old one, of the big four or three or however you want to count it, ended the moment Ray Allen left to sign with the Miami Heat.
Since Rondo went down, the Celtics have won four in a row, all at home, with two of the wins coming against the best teams in the NBA – first against the Miami Heat (100-98) and now another two point win, 106-104. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points, and also made a huge shot with time ticking down to ensure the Celtics improved to 24-23.
It wasn’t just about Pierce, who keeps looking like he’s doing everything for the Celtics this past week, averaging 6.3 assists and 9.5 rebounds since Rondo tore his ACL. The Celtics’ bench, missing Jared Sullinger (also out for the season), came through against what looked like the best second unit in the NBA not too long ago, but the injury to Chris Paul, and the move from the bench into the lineup of Eric Bledsoe disrupted a lot of things for the Clippers, losing six of their last eight games.
Kevin Garnett looks his age, and there’s no wonder there are talks of trading him before the deadline. His offense has been mediocre all season, and his defense in no where near the All-Defensive ability and influence you’re used to seeing from the veteran big man, finishing the game with 12 points and 5 rebounds. The second unit, especially through Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green, was what really made the difference for the Celtics, who had a hard time containing Blake Griffin (20 points), Bledsoe (23 points) and Caron Butler (18 points).
The Celtics bench outscored the Clippers bench 52 to 29, posting nearly identical field goal attempts with the Celtics going 17-26 and the Clippers 11-27, but the difference was the free-throw line. The Celtics bench was 12-14 while the Clippers bench was 3-3 from the free-throw line.
A lot of people say that we don’t have a chance to go to the playoffs, we can’t do this, we can’t do that. We know we have each other and we’re going to go out there and fight for each other, no matter what, every single night.
Rondo’s injury has moved Courtney Lee into the lineup, which hasn’t hurt the Celtics one bit. The ball movement is now up to Pierce, while Bradley and Lee present a much better defensive duo in the backcourt, as Rondo has let his man on man defense slip this season, focusing more on his offensive responsibilities. Bradley made one big defensive play on Jamal Crawford, taking the charge from the only bench player who had a good day for the Clippers (23 points).
Despite the recent streak, things aren’t that great for the Celtics. A few people in the front office think this team isn’t good enough to make the playoffs, or at least grab a place higher than 7th or 8th in the East, contemplating a trade. So far, belief, confidence and a re-distribution of responsibilities on the court, with everyone rallying behind the leadership of Paul Pierce, is working just fine.