ATLANTA — On Jan. 18, Rajon Rondo fell hard on his wrist in a game against the Raptors and missed the next eight games. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Celtics, who were trying to dig themselves out of a 4-8 hole to start the season. Those fears appeared justified two days later when they struggled to score 71 points in a dreadful home loss to the Suns.
But over the next seven games, the Celtics found a winning formula. While Avery Bradley shifted into Rondo’s spot at the point, they actually ran their offense through Paul Pierce as a point forward.
Bradley would often bring the ball up the floor, hand off to Pierce and disappear to the corner, allowing Pierce and Brandon Bass to run pick and pops to their hearts content. Even with Rondo, the Celtics get most of their offense from the perimeter, and without their slashing guard they moved further out and attempted more shots from outside the paint.
The C’s won six of their next seven — the lone loss came in a fourth quarter collapse against the Cavs (the Kyrie Irving game) — and their offense actually functioned better than their average in four of those games in terms of points per possession. Pierce scored almost 23 points per game in those seven contests and handed out 54 assists. Bradley had a handful of standout games in that stretch, but mainly he kept his turnovers low and tried to minimize mistakes.
It was on defense where Bradley made his mark, decimating Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in one memorable outing and establishing himself as the best on-the-ball defensive guard in the league. Most importantly, he proved that he could handle the increased responsibility and playing time.
“We had a few games that Rondo wasn’t able to play that prepared me for situations like this,” Bradley said at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech on Monday.
Rondo was suspended for Tuesday’s Game 2 by the NBA after he bumped referee Marc Davis late in Game 1. That January stretch stands out as one of the few highlights of the first half of the Celtics’ season and offers a glimpse at what life without Rondo will entail for Game 2 of their playoff series with the Hawks. (more…)