Celtics are putting it all together, in the face of overwhelming odds. And while I think the Heat game was a bit of an aberration, it was a great measuring stick for the upcoming playoffs. As always (right or wrong) I have a few thoughts.
What if: JO, Ray, and others had stayed healthy? Would we have ever seen AB and GS play meaningful minutes? And where would we be if they HAD stayed healthy? Remember how bad we looked.. even after 20 games? Would we have changed our line-up eventually? While you never want to see injuries, one wonders where we would be.....
Confessions: I have to admit that I was wrongly skeptical of this team's ability to make a playoff "splash." And while I'm not saying this recent winning streak has me thinking of banner 18, it is a far cry from my earlier expectations. I have also been one to be open to trading Rondo... and though he is still frustrating at times, I am starting to see (more on this next) what he truly is/can be. Surrounded with more cutters and finishers, he could be on display every night as he was against the Heat... finding every open man and getting to the rim for his own points too. Finally, though I can be rough on Doc's offensive philosophy at times, he seems to have adjusted well to missing some players... and has managed GS minutes to at times accent KG instead of replacing him.
The Avery Bradley Effect: Before anyone gets out the stat log, or brings up memories of 2008, I am not suggesting that AB is better than RA..nor am I suggesting that we are winning because he is out. I also have no interest in a debate about how RA's 3 point stats alone should warrant his continued starting role. (Steve Novak is the best 3 point shooter in the league, and most fans don't even know who he plays for) However, I believe that the BIGGEST effect that AB has had is on Rondo. Rondo now has a running mate, and a cutter who can finish off his assists. AB's defense has set the tone for the starting unit... often getting off to quick leads instead of slow starts like earlier in the season. The offense, when RA is in, seems often to focus on his endless running off screens, thus negating cutting or movement.. and especially slowing down Rondo and any sort of attacking moves. Since RA and MP have been out, doc has (like the Heat game) simplified the offense... using single pick and rolls to get PP,RR, or AB some space, and then allowing them to drive, dump down, or kick out (in other words, basketball, by instinct and reaction instead of one set movement that can be limiting and predictable) This suits Rondo well, and he seems so much more in tune and in control. We also are attacking in transition more... letting AB and RR exploit a possible advantage , rather that always pulling it out, setting it up, or and walking it up. The result is far less scoreless droughts, and a hell of a lot of happy fans (mainly me). Pierce seems much less apt to force the ball in this scenario as well. This is why we need 2 more "AB type" players (one PF or SF and a center) who use hard cuts and attacking skills to finish around the rim. Imagine the possibilities... but thats for next year.
Ray Allen will always be a special player, but we can't let nostalgia blind our eyes to the possibility that it may suit this team better for him to be a sixth man. We have to measure, in my opinion, AB's effect on every facet of our team, and not simply fall victim to comparisons of him and RA. When we do that, I think the facts, not the stats, speak for themselves.