Paul Pierce has averaged 23.3 PPG, with a shooting percentage 55.8 FG%, in his past three games. Kevin Garnett has also played very well before missing the last game against Memphis. With that being said, you would think that the Celtics would be on a streak we'd all be proud of. However, this is not the case. Having lost four games in a row to the likes of Dallas and New Orleans, the Boston Celtics are crawling to the playoffs. The Celtics remain only a game and a half in front of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
The back court duo of PG Avery Bradley and SG Courtney Lee was mouth-watering at one point: "The defensive intensity would create all sorts of turnovers and make every offense struggle to set up their plays!". Surely, the defensive intensity in the back court has certainly picked up since the Rajon Rondo injury. Despite that, the offensive production has almost disappeared since the injury. Bradley is shooting less than 30% in his past three games and continues to struggle since coming back from surgery on both shoulders. Both his FG% and 3P% are almost 10% lower than last season. His free throw shooting is also down. Courtney Lee's percentages aren't so bad, but he averages only 7.8 PPG for the season.
Surely, some could argue that Avery Bradley is playing out of position. Some could also say that Lee struggled greatly with Rondo, but has been playing better since. Even if both were true, the lack of production from the back court has hampered the offense greatly. Bradley continuously misses wide open shots and Lee is not a focal point of the offense. The Celtics refuse to use Terrence Williams consistently and Doc only seems comfortable with using Jordan Crawford and Jason Terry as back court depth. Crawford has his amazing shots, but also misses more than a handful. He is a streaky scorer and it is not a good sign if the Celtics are relying on him to carry the back court scoring. Jason Terry has proven that the load will certainly not be carried by him. Production from the back court will play a pivotal role on if the Celtics can even get through the first round of this year's playoffs.
Rebounding also continues to hurt the Boston Celtics. Yes, the Celtics did lose arguably their best rebounder earlier in the season with Jared Sullinger's injury. However, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green came back this season. Both were injured in last years playoff run. Fab Melo will also be called up to the roster once the D-league season ends. This is not to mention that the Celtics signed DJ White and Shavlik Randolph, both who struggle to get any playing time before the postseason. On paper, the Celtics are bigger than last season. On the floor, the Celtics look like the smallest team in the NBA. Most teams in the NBA don't have legit centers, and even if they do, they are mostly not the focal point of the team. Despite this, the Celtics can't get any tips to go their way. This problem was present before the Rajon Rondo injury and no resolution is in site. The Celtics continue to run down the court after missed shots rather than crash the boards for rebounds.
I'm not going to say that the season is all, but lost. There is hope, but Celtics fans have to realistically begin to get worried about the teams championship aspirations. If the Celtics can't force the offensive tempo, the offense looks stagnant with no pure PG on the roster. A modern Celtics half court offense consists of bad shots and turnovers. This could be problematic in the post-season when the tempo slows down. The depth that was raved about earlier in the season is gone. Doc refuses to use most of the bench and is going to "ride it out" with the veterans. Most teams do shorten their benches before the playoffs, but I won't even get into my opinion on the mismanagement of the roster.
A final thing that people don't acknowledge is that the Celtics have lost their intimidation factor. The once scary team to face is no longer. Kevin Garnett is the only one remaining. No scorer is scared to go to the paint with Perkins gone and no player is scared to push the Celtics around with Rondo gone. The instigators on the team aren't on the court and that fear factor has appeared to have gone to Indiana.
With the names that the Celtics have on the roster, they should be a much higher playoff seed than they are. Unfortunately, games aren't played on paper. The player that once earned the title as "JET" can continue to talk, but the Celtics aren't doing the walk. As of right now, if they were walking anywhere, it would be backwards. With few games left in the regular season, I can only hope that I stop hearing excuses for this team.