|Things We Learned This Week||12.05.08 at 10:03 pm ET|
The Celtics came into the week with three games in five days; two against up and coming teams, and one against the only team that beat them soundly. If it was a test, they passed it easily with blowout wins over Orlando, Indiana and Portland.
The Celtics haven’t just been beating teams, they’ve been dominating them. It’s to the point that the bench’s recent inability to hold 20-point leads in the fourth quarter is the only criticism anyone can make (well, that and a few too many turnovers).
Still, there were lessons to be learned this week, and almost all of them are positive ones for the defending champs.
1. Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the East, and one of the best in the NBA.
NBA TV’s Gary Payton has oddly stuck to his disbelief in Rondo, which makes the Glove look sillier and sillier by the day, but he’s the only one who still doesn’t get it. “It” started several weeks ago. Simply put, Rondo has been playing out of his mind. He recorded his first career triple-double against the Pacers, and his line against Portland was the definition of point guard efficiency: 16 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers, 6-for-8 shooting.
Rondo proved, again, against the Pacers’ TJ Ford that there is no one in the league who can stay in front of him defensively. The only danger is that those wide-open driving lanes won’t be so wide-open in the playoffs and Rondo still hasn’t proven he can be a reliable jump shooter. But that’s nitpicking at this point at a player who shouldn’t just be in the All-Star game, he should be starting.
He’s the difference between the Celtics winning by 5-7 points, and 15-20.
“Rondo’s playing excellent,” Kevin Garnett said. “He’s creating shots for everybody. He’s on the boards. He’s active. It makes our job a little easier.”
2. Centers don’t bother the Celtics
You might think that a big, active center would give the Celtics problems. After all, KG isn’t really a center and Kendrick Perkins isn’t an upper-echelon big man. Right? Well, Perk might never be an All-Star, he might not get on the cover of video games, but he has more than held his own against Dwight Howard and Greg Oden.
Howard recorded 15 points and 12 rebounds on Monday, which sounds nice, but is a far cry from his usual effort, while Oden managed just five points and six boards in 18 foul-plagued minutes. That credit goes to Perkins who is becoming one of the top defensive centers in the league.
“I think Perk has understood totally, 100 percent, his role,” Garnett said. “He and Rondo are MVP’s right now for me. They’re playing real good basketball.”
Perkins and Garnett have developed a rapport and a trust in the paint defensively. “He and Kevin are so attuned to each other,” Doc Rivers said.
“Communication is key,” KG said. “It’s powerful. When another team hears you talking like that, it can be intimidating.”
3. The bench misses Tony Allen.
OK, here’s the first negative. With Allen out with an injured ankle, the bench failed to hold leads in the fourth quarter of both the Indiana game and the Portland game. That led to an incident where Garnett let them know, particularly Big Baby Davis, that it wasn’t acceptable.
“I’m not going to even get into the bench right now,” Rivers said. “But I’m just going to say they had a lot to do with our made shots. We had a lot to do with it.”
The bench has been better than a lot of people thought. It was directly responsible for several wins early in the season when the starters weren’t playing that well, but there’s not enough depth at the 2 and 3 positions to cover for a loss like Tony Allen. He needs to stay healthy.
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