5-on-5: D12, PP34, RR9, GS54 and Doc
What have we learned about this Celtics team in Rajon Rondo’s absence?
Brendan Jackson: They are resilient. If Rondo is the “engine that stirs the drink” then this team can run Flinstones-style for a while. While everyone is riding high off Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore’s ability to shoulder the load while Rondo’s out, Rivers has made it abundantly clear he needs Rondo back as soon as possible and AB and Moore shouldn’t get too comfortable.
Forsberg: We learned that Paul Pierce can morph his game to account for the loss of key personnel and Boston can still win games; that Avery Bradley can be a solid role player (and capable spot starter); that E’Twaun Moore has offensive potential off the bench; that the offense desperately needs Rondo late in close games; that Boston still doesn’t have a pure backup ball-handler; and that minor wrist injuries are never minor.
Hayes Davenport: Maybe that their defense is better? Rondo is still referred to all over the place as one of the league’s best defensive point guards, but this isn’t the first time the team has allowed fewer points with him off the court. Last year, the Celtics had a better Defensive Rating when Nate Robinson was in the lineup among the starters. Rondo still tends to gamble on steals and he’s not great at defending the pick-and-roll, so he might have been the wrench in the Celtics’ defense machine early on.
Ryan DeGama: That Rivers doesn’t have to make a choice between losing games and burning out his starters. Doc can finally lean on his bench to get him through the regular season and still win games. I’m not sold on Bradley or Moore playing a meaningful second in the playoffs, but if they better position the C’s starters for late April, that’s a major achievement and the polar opposite of last season.
Brian Robb: A couple things. First, Pierce running the offense is a great idea. I don’t know whether it was the trade rumors, working himself into shape, or a combination of both but the command he’s showing over all aspects of the team’s offensive game is sensational. Outside of the excessive turnovers, he’s made a complete 180 since the horrific loss to Phoenix two weeks back and that’s important because it can keep Rondo from having to handle the ball 40+ minutes a game. Second, it’s nice to have three 3-point threats on the floor at all times. This is less about Rondo and more about the emergence of E’Twaun, Pietrus and co. but the floor spacing has improved a lot. Without Rondo getting hurt, we probably wouldn’t have seen Moore’s emergence, but now he’s a weapon C’s can use regularly.
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