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Celtics Slumping Through Home Stretch


The month of March is beginning to make Doc Rivers and the Celtics tingle all over with déjà vu. Last year, the Celts stumbled through the end of season so gruesomely that even the diehards were predicting a first round exit. Luckily, the Big Three turned back the clocks, Rondo elevated his game to superstar level, and Rasheed Wallace finally stepped on a treadmill for the first time all year. This year, it seems that turning on the switch won’t be quite so easy.

Last year around this time the Celtics were in the process of finishing the season a perfectly mediocre 27-27. The problems were pretty clear; the Big Three were hurt and playing on old legs, the bench lacked a true backup point guard, and the defensive intensity so key to the team’s success just wasn’t there. Doc made the conscious decision to rest his aging starters so that they could regain strength for the playoffs; a strategy that worked in the short term, but may have cost the Celtics a championship as they had to play game 7 against the Lakers in the Los Angeles.

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This year, the late season swoon didn’t begin until late February, but the warning signs are far more alarming. Since trading Kendrick Perkins and imploding the bench, the Celtics are 10-8. Danny Ainge thought that the biggest loss in the Perkins trade would be team defense, however; the Celtics are holding opponents to only 89.1 points per game in March. The only notable defensive statistic that has decreased without Perkins is blocks per game. If the Celtics haven’t been struggling defensively then perhaps Perkins, who never developed a post game and has hands of stone, was the key to the Celtics offense. No, the Celtics offensive struggles boil down to two different problems: Rajon Rondo has had a poor March and the Celtics new players are struggling to find a rhythm on offense.

For the last two years, it has been Rondo’s play that has decided the Celtics effectiveness on offense. Rondo’s assist numbers have decreased each and every month from 13.4 in November to 8.6 in March. His field goal percentage is also at a season low of 39% this month. Rondo’s struggles are a major contributor to the team’s recent slump, but he’s still young and capable of bouncing back. For this, the Celtics should be grateful; Rondo will return to his superstar point guard form.


The driving force behind the Celtics success the last four years has been chemistry. Rondo and Perkins went through NBA adolescence together; Pierce, Garnett, and Allen were fed up with losing and united in their quest for career defining championships. Each one of these five starters had a defined role: Rondo the floor general, Ray Allen the shooter, Pierce the scorer, KG the force in the post on offense and captain of the defense, and Perkins the intimidator. Now that Perkins is gone, the Celts need to develop a new chemistry. No, this does not mean that KG needs to make a mixtape for new Yugoslavian big man Nenad Kristic, but instead that he knows where to find him beneath the basket for a dunk. Doc Rivers still hasn’t figured out where to put Jeff Green in his ball movement oriented offense, and as a result the majority of Green’s baskets have come out of the fast break and isolations.

Championship teams are defined by their ability to respond to adversity. We’ll see if the Celtics respond to a slump the way Kevin Garnett responds to the basket support before every game.

 

By: Jared Seigal
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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