Boston Celtics are set to have home court advantage in the playoffs.
The above statement seemed so improbable just a few weeks ago after Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. The popular sentiment around the league was that the struggling Celtics would be wise to ‘blow up’ the roster, pack it in and begin rebuilding for next season and beyond.
They clearly had other ideas. Since Rondo’s season ending injury the Celtics are now thriving, enjoying a 13 – 4 record. It’s almost as if they don’t miss him. Rondo was delivering on his reputation as the most creative and unpredictable playmaker in the league, averaging a league high 11.1 assists before he got hurt. The Celtics have adapted by sharing the playmaking responsibilities; in last night’s victory over the Pacers for example Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Jason Terry came up with 4 assists each.
Right now the Celtics occupy the 7th spot; if their current form continues it is very likely they overtake the Chicago Bulls (0.5 games ahead), the Atlanta Hawks (1 game ahead) and the Brooklyn Nets (1.5 games ahead).
Admittedly, half of Boston’s remaining 22 games are on the road where they have struggled all season long, toiling to a 12-18 record away from TD Garden. In fact all four of their losses in this post-Rondo run have come on the road. On the plus side the Celtics’ defence has sprung back to life, recently surging from 23rd to 9th in the league in points allowed. This should foster hopes that they can dig in and win games on the road even when shooting poorly.
Coach Doc Rivers attempted to give a sane explanation for his team’s improved play, telling the Boston Globe
“You have all those injuries, you usually go the other way. I just think our guys kind of came together and realized we don’t have a margin of error anymore”.
There is clearly still a long way to go before we start drawing out playoff brackets, but it does look as though Boston will win the fourth seed they captured last season. If the Bulls take the fifth spot we could be looking forward to a tantalising first round clash between two historical giants and a repeat of that epic 2009 series which the Celtics won in seven games (two single overtime games, one double overtime game, one triple overtime game).
It’s worth noting that the Celtics that year were without Kevin Garnett yet still progressed to the next round and took Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic to seven games. So yeah, star man Rondo is injured and yeah, impressive rookie Jared Sullinger has also gone down, taking his rebounding and low post scoring with him, but they have it in them to keep upsetting the odds.
This is a tough team we’re looking at here.
That’s an understatement by the way.
image: © reneS