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Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success?

01.03.11 at 11:42 am ET

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Add Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle to the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued the Celtics through their first 32 games this season.

Following Sunday’s 93-79 victory in Toronto against the Raptors, Doc Rivers told reporters, “We have a game [Monday] night, so he’ll be OK.” But it was another “not again” moment that reminded Celtics fans of the team’s fragility.

It also reminded me of this article from the Los Angeles Times, which made the following statement:

Rajon Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he’s 100 percent.

Is Rondo really their only indispensable player? Could they legitimately reach their goal of an 18th NBA title without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or — for that matter — any of the starters who are undefeated as a unit in the playoffs?

That’s when I decided to look at the Celtics’ record with and without each player in the lineup during The New Big Three era. Here’s how it shakes out with and without each guy (winning percentages in parentheses):

  • Paul Pierce … With: 195-69 (.739); Without: 8-6 (.571)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .168
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 191-68 (.738); Without: 12-7 (.632)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .106
  • Kevin Garnett … With: 169-58 (.745); Without: 34-17 (.667)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .078
  • Ray Allen … With: 192-72 (.727); Without: 11-3 (.786)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.059
  • Kendrick Perkins … With: 167-65 (.720); Without: 36-10 (.783)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.063

Based on these numbers, Pierce has been the most valuable player on the team over the last three-plus regular seasons. Not Rondo. It’s also interesting to note the Celtics’ success without Allen or Perkins in the lineup.

One thing is certainly clear: Pierce, Rondo and Garnett are all indispensable. Well, at least that L.A. Times piece gave us one interesting note:

From the last four openers to Christmas Eve, Boston has gone an astounding 94-14 … a 71-win pace. Not even the Bill Russell teams that won 11 titles in 13 seasons ever did as well in that time frame.

The Celtics’ best four-year opener-to-Christmas Eve run in the Russell era was 94-26 from 1959-1962. Even posting win totals of 72-69-62 in Michael Jordan‘s last three seasons, the Bulls were 64-14 before Christmas.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, after the last three Christmases, they went 84-54 when injuries hit … as they have once more.

Just for fun, let’s look at the same numbers for each of the top-10 rotation players for this year’s team. How have the 2010-11 Celtics performed in their absences, taking into account the relatively small sample size?

  • Kevin Garnett … With: 24-6 (.800); Without: 1-1 (.500)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .300
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 18-3 (.857); Without: 7-4 (.636)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .221
  • Shaquille O’Neal … With: 17-6 (.739); Without: 8-1 (.889)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.150
  • Delonte West … With: 3-2 (.600); Without: 22-5 (.815)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.215
  • Jermaine O’Neal With: 7-5 (.583); Without: 18-2 (.900)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.317

The order of these players’ importance to the Celtics is certainly not surprising, but one thing is: How little an impact Jermaine O’Neal has had on this team. The Celtics have been a significantly better team when he doesn’t see the floor.


On his Twitter page, Pierce made no mention of how his ankle was feeling on Monday morning, but he did offer this: “Excuse me I need to get thru please” — accompanied by the following video …

Pierce probably didn’t enjoy the next video as much, as someone caught him tossing gum into the Indiana stands last week. So, does the NBA’s $15,000 fine for Pierce’s action make this the most expensive piece of gum ever chewed?


Regardless of whether Rondo or Garnett or Pierce is the most valuable member of the Celtics, I enjoyed Glen Davisanalysis via The Globe and Mail of what Rondo means to the their success in the wake of the point guard’s return:

“He makes it sound right — just like an [music] engineer or a producer. You could have these bangin’ tracks or sounds, but when he puts it together, he makes it hip.”

Raptors coach Jay Triano wasn’t as poetic when he made a vague reference via The Toronto Star to what he considered poor officiating in his team’s loss to the Celtics:

“I wish our guys got rewarded a little bit more for the work and the effort.”

The Raptors shot three more free throws (22-19) and were whistled for four fewer fouls (18-22) than the Celtics throughout the course of the game. Maybe that’s why Shaq didn’t sympathize with Triano in the aftermath (also via The Globe and Mail):

“That’€™s the way it is. [Triano] can cry a little more next time.”


On his Twitter page, Rondo snapped pictures of Nate Robinson in a fur coat. Now, according to NESN, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has demanded that Robinson donate “funds equivalent to the value of the coat to pay for veterinary care for dogs and cats owned by low-income people in the Boston area.”

Celtics public relations director Heather Walker reportedly said the jacket isn’t Robinson’s.

So, let me get this straight: Robinson posed for a picture in a fur coat, so now he should pay for the care of animals that belong to people who couldn’t afford to take care of the animals in the first place? Typical PETA.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail to or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)
Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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