The Thunder are meeting up with the Celtics in today's early afternoon head-to-head game, and the Celtics have impossibly both endured a season-ending loss to their All-Star PG Rajon Rondo but also managed to surge ahead. We turn to Jeff Clark at CelticsBlog to see how Celtic Pride continues to cary the day.
1) We have been saying this for the last 3 seasons I think, but is this the Celtics' last ride in their current form? What did the recent revelation that PP was nearly traded to the Mavericks give you a scare?
I think we're all getting used to the idea of Danny Ainge kicking the tires on just about any trade offer that presents itself but the thought of Paul Pierce leaving town never gets any easier. That said, eventually this run has to end and I have to wonder if these guys just don't want to do this anymore. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if they hung it up this offseason. Then again, as you said, I wouldn't have been surprised 2-3 years ago either, so you never know.
2) So how are you holding up now that this apparent rotation guy "Ronald Rando" went down for the season? Seems like you've barely missed a step. Any chance for his return come playoff time?
You've been hanging around Mayor Menino haven't you? I suppose every year feels like borrowed time these days but when you lose the new franchise guy, it does kind of feel like "welp, that's it." Then the team buckles down and plays better than they have all year and it has me feeling even more confused than normal. Oh and this whole notion of them playing "better without Rondo" is tired and laughable at this point. Were there some things that Rondo could have done better? Sure. But this run has a lot more to do with the team playing progressively better defense (in particular since Avery Bradley returned) than it does with Rondo's exit.
3) We know what Avery Bradley brings to the table, and it's great to see him thriving again. The surprise though has been Jeff Green. It seems as if he's finally figuring out his player-type, like a lesser Scottie Pippen. Is that anywhere close to the truth Or am I overstating his progress now that he's put a string of good games together?
Jeff has always been a tweener which is confusing. Add in the fact that he's never been particularly aggressive in looking for his own shot and then he's on the court with Hall of Famers so of course he wants to defer and you get a big confusing mess for him. What's changed? I'm not entirely sure to be perfectly honest. More familiarity with the system, an increased role with Rondo out, and hey, how about a few more months removed from heart surgery. It all adds up to a more comfortable Green. As we know, comfort and confidence is huge in basketball, so that's pretty much what it boils down to. He has been better more often than not lately but I still worry about consistency with him. Hopefully he can keep it up. He could be huge for us this year and for years to come.
4) Doc Rivers recently exhibited again (vs the Pacers) why he's perhaps the best end-game head coach in the league. However, those moments don't arise without the Celtics putting up enough offense to actually see the finish line. What is Boston doing to produce more offense so that they don't stall out again in the playoffs?
Well, the are looking to push the ball more with the younger players (Bradley, Green, Lee, etc.) to try to get easier buckets - in particular off of defensive stops and turnovers. They also are looking to move the ball around more. Rondo, for all his strengths, did tend to pound the ball waiting for plays to develop. Without that one focal point, it has forced the team to move the rock around which makes good things happen without depending too much on one (however brilliant) player's judgement. Still, at the end of the day, we'll only get as far as our defense and Pierce/KG take us.
5) Where are the Celtics on the Heat-scale? What happens if they meet in the playoffs?
Well, they aren't winning 17 games in a row, but they also aren't afraid of anyone - including the Heat. Who was the last team to beat the Heat? The Celtics (the day we learned that Rondo was out for the year). The Celtics - playing the way they are - are easily one of the top 10 teams in the league. That and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee, but it is something. At this point, I'm in "why not?" mode. Why can't this team take down the Heat if everything falls right? They were close last year with a different cast of support players but the keys are still there. Pierce, KG, and defense is what I'm putting my hopes in right now. Let's see how far it takes us.
Many thanks to Jeff for joining us today. Be sure to visit CelticsBlog to get the full scoop on the C's perspective.