Lets get one thing out of the way immediately – the Boston Celtics are not a better team without Rajon Rondo. Even the Rondo haters out there will admit that losing a player who puts up 13 points and 11 assists every night and getting nothing in return does not make a team better. However with that being said, just because the Celtics are not actually better does not mean they will not play better now that Rondo is done for the year. Doc Rivers always says, "You are what you're record says you are," but that isn't really true. Prior to Rondo's injury the Celtics were 20-23, but the team clearly had the talent to be way better than that. They have not played to their potential all year. They were three games under .500, but everyone knew they were better than that. They just weren't playing better than that. Rivers has tried practically everything to get through to them, but this injury speaks to the Celtics in ways that Doc never could. Rondo getting hurt challenges every single player in the Celtics locker room to be better, and in this writers' opinion, this team really needed a challenge. It would have been nice if it were something other than their best player blowing his knee out, but thus far players like Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green have answered the bell.
For a brief six game stretch the Celtics showed the kind of team they can be. Starting with a win over Indiana the Celtics rattled off six straight, including impressive wins over the Hawks, Knicks, and Rockets. Then they crashed right back to earth, losing six straight before finally losing Rondo. However last year this team was so injured that even Rivers needed surgery after the season. Ray Allen was on balky ankles, Avery Bradley was playing with one arm, and Paul Pierce and MIckael Pietrus had two good knees between them. But that team just would not die. Using stingy defense and pure grit the Celtics hung around in games for the entire second half of the 2012 season, grinding out ugly win after ugly win. This style of play carried them all the way to within one game of the NBA Finals. Admittedly they had Rondo at the time, and he put together an incredible playoff run. But prior to Rondo's injury the 2012-2013 Celtics, despite being a way deeper and more talented squad than the 2012 edition, were not playing the same way. The grit and defensive intensity were only ever there in spurts, but Rondo's injury may finally have hammered home the point that Doc has been trying to make all year – the only way this team can win is by grinding out games with tough defense.
With or without Rondo this Cetlics squad has more than enough talent to win games. The offense actually runs decently well through Paul Pierce. It's starting to look like his jump shot may be gone for good, but the team has plenty of other guys who can score with Pierce setting the table. Kevin Garnett can still get a shot off against just about anyone. Courtney Lee has decent creativity, Avery Bradley knows how to score, and Jason Terry and Jeff Green are good for about 30 combined bench points per night. They may run in to trouble in games that stay tight into the fourth quarter, because Pierce may not be able to be their go to guy anymore. But the talent is there for this squad. It's hard to know where their ceiling is, but they still have potential. They aren't actually better, but they may play better.
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