One of the best things about the Celtics is the balance we see between players on the offensive end. The respective styles play of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all mesh quite well, and there is hardly ever a need for anyone on the roster to dominate the ball and score a boatload of points. Indeed, six players on the roster are currently averaging between 11.2 points per game and 18.5 points per game, and the team's three leading scorers - Pierce, Allen, and Garnett - are averaging 18.5 points, 17 points, and 15.7 points per game, respectively.
While we've seen similar trends ever since Pierce, Allen, and Garnett united, much of the Celtics' offensive success this season has to be credited to Rondo, who orchestrates it all. Which is why, when it was announced he would miss Thursday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks, I expected the ball movement to cease somewhat, in favor of one-on-one play from the majority of the guys. I also expected to see the aforementioned balance dissipate as a result. I expected Pierce, in particular, to try to shoulder the extra burden offensively, and score in the high 20s or low 30s, especially considering he was coming off a 32-point performance the night before.
Instead, it was just the opposite, as the Celtics put together one of their most balanced offensive attacks of the season. Six players scored in double figures, with four of those players scoring at least 15 points. Garnett finished with 17, Pierce with 15, Semih Erden chipped in 10, Ray Allen ended up with 18 (17 in the second half), Nate Robinson scored 14, and Glen Davis contributed 18 off the bench.
The ball movement didn't suffer mightily, as the Celtics, as a team, compiled 26 assists on 44 made field goals (59 percent), and Pierce in particular raised his own game in this specific area, handing out a season-high 10 helpers. His previous season-high in assists was five, which he's recorded twice this season. He admitted afterwards that he felt the need to be more of a "playmaker" with Rondo out, while also admitting that he didn't feel the need to be more of a straight scorer (there goes my theory). Allen and Robinson also chipped in in this area, as Ray handed out six assists (two off his season-high of eight) and Robinson dished out five.
In addition to that, all six of the Celtics' top scorers against the Hawks (mentioned above) had at least half of their made field goals assisted on. Robinson and Garnett each had 50 percent of their field goals assisted on, which actually tied for Garnett's lowest percentage of baskets assisted on this season (coincidentally both of his season-lows have come against the Hawks). It should be noted, however, that Garnett appears to benefit the most from Rondo's assists, according to Chris Forsberg, so it shouldn't come as that much of a shock that that specific stat took a hit.
Ray Allen, on the other hand, had a whopping 85.7 percent of his baskets assisted on against the Hawks, good for a tie for his fourth highest mark of the season. Pierce, meanwhile, had 80 percent of his made field goals assisted on - good for a tie for his third highest mark of the season.
The last time Rondo missed a string of games (three late in November), the Celtics still managed to average 22.6 assists per game - only roughly three off of their 25.9 average for the season. With Rondo most likely out for a longer duration this time around as he nurses a sprained left ankle (and 16,000 other injuries), we'll have to keep an eye on how well the rest of the Celtics can keep each other involved. We'll get our next glimpse on Sunday, when the C's host the Indiana Pacers.