On offense, the Boston Celtics rely on Rajon Rondo making the right choices and passes to get going. On defense, Rondo actually putting some pressure on opposing point guards means just as much.
In a story of two halves, the Boston Celtics got the better of the two. After falling behind by 19, the Celtics went on a 33-9 third quarter that in the numbers was credited mostly to Paul Pierce, finishing with 26 points, 9 rebound and 5 assists, but should be mostly credited to Rajon Rondo who actually began playing some defense next Avery Bradley, sparking the pressure and kind enthusiasm this team needed to win.
On the way, Rondo recorded his second triple double of the season, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. He was aggressive with his shooting, finishing with 7-16 from the field, second on the team in field goal attempts. After a rough December, the Celtics are off to a 2-1 start in the new year, including impressive wins over the Pacers and the Hawks, with their defense finally starting to pick up.
We were kind of bickering at each other a little bit too much, figuring out what defense we were going to run. And I just had to say that the fight ain’t with one another. It’s against the other team on the court. I was like, ‘This ain’t it, don’t get mad at Doc, he’s coaching. We’ve got to get mad at this other team.
All the leadership and experience in the world can’t help when the team doesn’t put in the right kind of effort on defense, especially on defense. What can you do, this version of the Celtics isn’t going to outscore the rest of the NBA by running them off the floor. The problem is that their defending has been inconsistent and weak on many nights, simply failing to raise their intensity levels and physicality when other teams did.
While Kevin Garnett has been the defensive heart of this team for the past five years, times are changing. The Boston Celtics are turning to Rajon Rondo to bring the spark on defense as well. No, he can’t change shots like Garnett has the ability (still) to do, but he can do more than just intercept a bad pass here and there. Defense for guards is more than just posting 2.5 steals per game. It’s about getting in the face of the other point guard and making it very difficult for him to dictate the play.
Too often this season, Rondo hasn’t been able to do that. Now that Avery Bradley is back, a much better defender than Jason Terry is, there’s a good chance Rondo will be positively infected, and drag his teammates in the right direction.
It’s only one more game till the sacred .500 for the Boston Celtics, in a season that still has plenty of time in it to make things better. While Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been inconsistent, it’s mostly about how much does Rajon Rondo give on both ends of the floor every night. He can’t do it all, but his effort is what keeps this team going, and is often the difference between looking like experienced veterans and washed up former champs.