Found April 02, 2012 on Boston's Bettah:

Rajon Rondo has been nothing short of spectacular since the All-Star Break

The Boston Celtics were just about dead a month ago, there is zero doubt about that. They were headed towards a playoff’s where they would get dominated by the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls. Every member of the Boston Celtics, including their best two players Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, were on the trade block and the Celtics were headed towards a dark corner of the basketball world called purgatory. They would be just on the edge of the basketball playoffs, not bad enough to get into the lottery and grab a top-level talent, but not good enough to contend for a championship either.

To make matters worse, the Boston Celtics were missing their starting center (Jermaine O’ Neal) lost their back-up PF/C man to a strange heart ailment (Chris Wilcox, who also set a team record by being the second guy on a single team to miss games because of a heart ailment) and they lost their best back-up wing in Mickael Pietrus. I’m not going to say that I, personally, was a fan that had given up on the season because once the playoffs start anything can happen, but it wasn’t looking good for the Boston Celtics.

Something strange has happened down on Causeway Street. A team that was left for dead before the All-Star break has suddenly exploded. They are now 15-5 since the All-Star break and now seemingly control their own fate in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. On top of that, they haven’t lost at home since the All-Star break, they have wins against the Knicks, the Rockets, the Clippers (in LA), the Hawks (in Atlanta), and the Heat- all teams that are playoff teams- and they are only a game and a half behind the Orlando Magic for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

The problem is, it doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to say its because they are now playing teams with lack of talent because the Celtics lost games to teams like Toronto and Detroit before the All-Star Game and yet beat the Bulls and the Pacers, both playoff teams. We can’t put the improved success on an increased emphasis on defense because the Celtics are actually giving up more points per-game then they did before the All-Star break (88.5 before the All-Star game compared to 91.9 since the All-Star break). What can we attribute to the improved play of the Boston Celtics?

After the jump, why the Boston Celtics are playing at a top level

  1. Nobody is going anywhere: Any time that a team has a tornado of rumors around the team, it can be expected that the team is too play a little less to the best of their abilities. Sure, they are supposed to be professionals and be able to shake off any rumor, but they are human beings just like you and me. With Rondo being involved in rumors involving the Lakers and the Magic and the Warriors and Ray Allen minutes away from going to the Clippers and Paul Pierce about to be shipped off to the Lakers, how is anyone supposed to stay focused on basketball? Everyone involved or potentially involved in any trades had so many more things to worry about such as where they would live, who their new teammates would be, and even what the newest situation would be in terms of playoff contention and role on the team. Sorry that the Celtics in question weren’t totally one-hundred percent committed to the Boston Celtics. Since the All-Star break and the trade-deadline that came quickly after, the Boston Celtics knew that they would be together for that one…last…run at the title. They could re-focus their efforts on the Boston Celtics and it has shown, especially with our next guy…
  2. Rajon Rondo: I have a question for everyone. How the **** was Danny Ainge even thinking about trading Rajon Rondo? Sure, he’s moody at times, he doesn’t like to go to the free-throw line because he’s god-awful at them and he could be a little bit more consistent on his jumper, but Rajon Rondo is one of the few guys in the entire league that makes everyone on the court better. His stats (10/5/12) since the All-Star break don’t tell the whole picture. The way Rajon Rondo attacks the lane and draws every defender like he is equipped with human drawing magnets, then slips out a little pass to the open man for an easy jumper is spectacular. Watch him on defense heckle point-guards and get his long arms into the passing lanes to start his one man fast break. Turn on any nationally televised Celtics game and watch how Rajon Rondo embraces the moment and shows the world that he deserves to be considered one of the best point-guards in the league. Rajon Rondo is an infectious basketball player. When he is playing at a highly competitive level like he was on April 1st against the Heat, the entire team gets behind it. Everyone seems to play a little harder on defense, everyone makes the extra pass, and its all because Rajon Rondo is willing the team to compete. Put it this way. In the first year of the Big Three era, Paul Pierce was the captain and the heart and soul of the team, but Kevin Garnett was the motor. Rajon Rondo is now the motor and this team will go as far as he wants to will them to go. That doesn’t worry me at all.
  3. Boston’s worst kept secret, Avery Bradley: For about a year and a half of the Avery Bradley era (if you can even call it that) in Boston, Bradley appeared to be the next of a long line of failed Danny Ainge draft picks. Sure, he was athletic and played good defense, but he looked lost whenever he was on the court and never looked like he would quite “get it”. With Mickael Pietrus out due to his concussion syndromes and Ray Allen missing time due to a sore ankle, the Celtics were forced to throw Avery Bradley into the starting line-up over the past two weeks and the result has been awesome for the Boston Celtics. In addition to finally discovering some semblance of an offensive game, his defensive intensity has really drawn eyes around the league to him. He’s quick, he’s tenacious, simply put, he’s a bastard to deal with and every team needs that guy that just pisses off other teams. Once Ray Allen comes back, he should continue to cause problems all over the court when he comes in, especially considering he’ll start playing against more bench guys.
  4. The captain and the truth: The Celtics have needed an offensive force. They needed a guy that they could turn to and say “Go get us a basket”. For years, that had always been Paul Pierce, but age had seemed to catch up to him. As the great Lee Corso once said “Not so fast my friend”. Paul Pierce has been wicked awesome since the All-Star Break averaging 21/6/4 and being the main offensive force for the Boston Celtics. Of course, he is helped by Rajon Rondo (see item two) and his ability to create open mid-range jumpers for Pierce, but Pierce is also attacking the basket like he used to do in his younger years and is getting to the line more. In 29 games before the all-star break, he got to the line 136 times. Not a terrible number, but in the 20 games since the All-Star break, he has already got there 103 times. This adjustment to his game had made him more dangerous as an offensive weapon. He’s gone toe-to-toe with Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James in the past month and has come out victorious twice. When it comes down to the last few minutes of games, everyone is going to know where the ball is going, but it won’t matter to the Pierce and the Celtics.
  5. The rejuvenation of Kevin Garnett: Trade him, move him, amnesty him, he’s washed up. All of these things and more were said about Kevin Garnett. It was arguably the biggest weak point of the Boston Celtics starting line-up and it was at least the worst part of the Big Four. But losing Jermaine O’ Neal forced the Celtics to try things. They tried Greg Stiemsma at the starting-center, but he’s still too young and raw. They played Chris Wilcox there for a little bit, but then something happened with his heart. Doc Rivers turned to Kevin Garnett, his wise veteran and asked him to do something odd for KG. He asked him to start at center, something KG hates to do. KG, however, embraced this change, and the Celtics have been better for it. He can’t over-power any one, but his presence at center has helped not only Rondo (where the lane has opened) but his own play. Centers don’t want to come out on him where his mid-range jumper is and it has resulted in more open jumpers. Garnett also is showing something that we haven’t seen in a long time. Motivation. The energy that he is playing with on the court is something that the Celtics and their fans haven’t seen since the 2010 playoffs. Garnett has heard all season long that he is done. He went into the All-Star Break, got some rest, and came out ready to prove everyone wrong and he has done that so far. Kevin Garnett isn’t done… yet, but is that coming soon? Kevin Garnett is 36, and he isn’t a young 36 if there is such a thing. He has had so many games and minutes on his body that every year seems like the year where he is going to fall apart. It looked like this year was the one, but he has come out and proved them wrong, for now. Can he keep this up? The playoff success of the Boston Celtics might hinge on the play of Kevin Garnett so Celtics fans have no choice but to hold out and hope that he can keep this up. At his current level of motivation, as long as he stays healthy, I think he can.

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