- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Leandro Barbosa must step up and help fill Rajon Rondo's shoes for the next two games.The Boston Celtics dodged a bit of a bullet when the league handed down a mere two-game suspension for point guard Rajon Rondo on Thursday. Regardless, Boston must navigate its next two games without the team's only pure ball-handler, so how will Boston compensate?
When Rondo missed a game against the Nets earlier this month due to an ankle injury, Leandro Barbosa was inserted in the starting lineup alongside Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett. Alas, that lineup is a cringe-worthy minus-13 over 11 minutes of floor time, having been outscored 26-13 by opponents. That unit was outscored 13-6 in a four-minute stint to start the game against Brooklyn and the Nets' lead soon ballooned to double figures as they ran away with the game (aided by their first-half domination on the glass). The unit finished minus-11 over eight minutes together that game.
Rivers could toy with the idea of a Terry/Courtney Lee backcourt at the start of these two games. That unit with Pierce, Bass, and Garnett is plus-1 over a mere 13 minutes of floor time this season, outscoring opponents 20-19, but shooting just 33 percent during that small span.
Now, these two sample sizes are way too small to draw any sort of hard conclusions. On the surface, the Lee lineup has been more competitive, but also forces Terry to play more at the point guard position, something Rivers has shied away from.
The easy route here seems to be riding it out with Barbosa as a starter and keeping Lee with the second unit. Lee showed some encouraging signs in the second half of Wednesday's loss to the Nets and Boston needs him to build off that, particularly without Rondo.
With Jeff Green (knee) and Chris Wilcox (illness) questionable for Friday's game against the Trail Blazers, the Celtics could be forced to roll out all sorts of atypical lineups. These are the type of games where Boston needs it overall dearth of talent to take over and mask the difficulties imposed by losing key contributors.
While losing maybe your most important player is never a good thing, the next two games are a chance for those players that have struggled early in the 2012-13 season to assert themselves and help shoulder the load.