Originally written January 31, 2013 on Celtics Town:
A number of Celtics stepped up in Rondo's absence for a big home win.If a person is lucky, he arrives at the end of a busy week with enough time for a single moment of silence. He or she can sit alone for 30 seconds, exhale and look forward. It’s not really a moment of relief, because life starts again in the morning. Rather, it’s a moment of reflection — an opportunity to take stock of one’s surroundings. It’s a nice moment, however temporary.Boston earned themselves that moment by crushing the Sacramento Kings 99-81 in the first game since the world exploded around them. When Rondo went down with an injury, the internet understandably blew itself to smithereens trying to figure out what the Celtics would do next. The trade machine was abused. The merits of tanking vs. trying for one more stand were discussed. And now we find ourselves at a crossroads: Either the Celtics try to make a run in the playoffs or they look to the future.Fortunately, that discussion was delayed after a big win against a bad team. We don’t know anything more than we did yesterday, except that the Celtics can still beat bad teams. Which, actually, is pretty significant given Boston’s losing streak before the Miami game. Regardless, let’s get to some bullet points.Perhaps the best part of Boston’s win tonight was the even distribution of minutes between nearly every available player on the roster. Besides Jared Sullinger (more on him in a minute), only Jason Collins finished with single digit minutes. Better yet, just two Celtics played more than 30 (Bass with 38 and Pierce with 31), while Garnett finished with 28. Good to see more minutes for some players (ie. Barbosa and Wilcox) and less for the elder statesmen.Jared Sullinger asked to be removed from the game after just four minutes with back spasms and never returned. This concerns me greatly (because of his rumored back problems pre-draft) and my fellow Celtics Town writer Jordan Higgs not at all (because Sullinger was likely to return if Boston hadn’t blown the game wide open). I leave it to you to pick your side.Not sure this is totally necessary, ESPN Box Score. All of the sads.The Celtics won the second quarter 37-14 and played about as well as we could have possibly hoped for from a post-Rondo team. Terry knocked down several jumpers, which created space for other players. Pierce got to his spot and hit his shots. Courtney Lee nailed a corner three. It was, all in all, nearly a picture perfect quarter. So naturally, the C’s had to make us feel less good about it…The Kings made the usual end of the third/beginning of the fourth quarter run that Celtics’ opponents typically make when Boston has a big lead, which was aggravating. Boston’s offense went back into “let’s just get to the end of this thing” mode, which didn’t come back to bite them only because, frankly, the Kings just aren’t that good. The Celtics weathered the storm (really more of a light drizzle without an umbrella than a full-blown storm) and won comfortably, but not without leaving a “meh” feeling in fan’s stomachs.There’s an important distinction between the Celtics BEING better without Rondo and the Celtics PLAYING better without Rondo. Boston is not better without their best player. But it’s possible that losing him will galvanize other players into overachieving. It’s possible that his absence will make other players realize the importance of their roles and play up to them instead of this general malaise we have witnessed throughout most of the season. It’s possible to play better without being better. I really hope the Celtics play better without Rondo, but I also hope we can all recognize that the team itself isn’t better. They would just be unlocking potential that has been there all along.More tomorrow. For tonight, take a break from the trade machine and enjoy a brief respite. A two game winning streak feels nice. Relish it, because it all starts again tomorrow.Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.
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