When the final roster began to take shape over the summer, pundits and fans alike had some legitimate questions about what the Celtics could really do. Could the new look Celtics share the ball, could Allen, Pierce and Garnett put their collective egos aside for the sake of winning, is the bench deep enough, can Rondo run the point, will Perk stay out of foul trouble and make a meaningful contribution, can they improve on defense, will they struggle early? With twelve games in the books, we have some answers.
Let’s just start with the most obvious answer to a question that was a legitimate one to ask a dozen games ago. Will the Celtics record suffer because the team needs to develop chemistry? There is a simple equation to answer this question that I’m sure a former math teacher like FL will appreciate:
12 games – 1 loss = 11 WINS and no problems with chemistry.
There can be little doubt that the Grand Three are all too willing to share the ball, and that ego plays very little in to the equation that has yielded success thus far. A jaw dropping 65% of all Celtics field goals were products of assists, with Pierce, Garnett and Allen averaging 5.2, 4.2 and 3.5 assists respectively. If numbers aren’t your thing but court performance is, no problem; just reference Boston’s improbable win against Charlotte on Saturday. In recent Celtics history, Paul Pierce wasn’t just the first option to take a game winner, he was the only legitimate option. Pavlovian response would indicate that since this is a learned behavior engrained over several seasons, Pierce’s first thought would be to shoot, and would hesitate to find an open man. Against the Bobcats Pierce didn’t hesitate to hit an open Ray Allen despite the fact that Ray struggled shooting a paltry 3 for 14 from the field and 0 for 5 from the arc prior to his game winner. That one act…………that one pass from Pierce to Allen illustrated that egos aren’t part of the Celtics early success and displayed for all of Celtics Nation how much confidence these guys have in one another.
The bench was an enormous question mark, and for all intents and purposes the bench will remain a question mark unless they can maintain this level of production for the entire season. The Celtics bench hasn’t struck fear in the heart of opposing coaches, but they have done exactly what has been necessary. The Celtics bench has been very solid averaging 30 ppg, 6.1 apg, 13.8 rpg and 6.1 spg. Posey has been an excellent defensive option and a solid offensive contributor off the bench. Tony Allen has yet to find the explosiveness he had before the knee injury, yet has been a good defender and his legs are starting to show a little life. Offensively his greatest contribution has been not doing too much. He has been opportunistic and savvy on offense, and as such has been an asset instead of a liability. Eddie House has been a sniper from the perimeter, and has been a fair back up to Rondo. Exactly what the Celtics need from him.
Perk and Rondo have been more than just after thoughts on the floor. Both have made excellent contributions as the Celtics starting point and five man. The question with Rondo had been can he improve enough from the perimeter to be an asset and not a liability? His answer has been a resounding yes, averaging 9.1 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 3.6 rpg, all while shooting an eye popping 55.6% from the field. These aren’t just lay ups and bunnies, Rondo is shooting with confidence from the perimeter and his shot has been falling regularly. With Perk the question has been can he limit his fouls and learn his role? He has answered the question by playing more minutes a game than he ever has in his career. He’s averaging just under 26 minutes a game, as a result he’s making a much more significant contribution not only on defense where he averages a team high 1.5 blocks a game to go with almost 2 offensive boards a game, but he’s averaging a career best 7.9 points per game. Is Perk a future All Star……..probably not, but he is a very solid starting center, and will be for years to come.
The Celtics have been many things over the last three years, but a defensive power house has never been one of them. No team under Doc Rivers has ever been solid on defense. Fortunately for Celtics Nation, no team under the watchful eye of Coach Thibodeau has ever been deficient on the defensive side of the ball. There are three categories I look at to evaluate how good a team is on defense, opponent points per game, opponent field goal percentage and forced turnovers. So how do the guys in Green size up against the rest of the NBA? Boston is limiting other teams to a leagues best 89.7 points per contest. The Celtics are also at the top of the league in opponent field goal percentage causing teams to shoot a meager 40.9%. Boston is fourth in the league in forcing turnovers, causing teams to cough it up 16.8 times a game. There is no question that the Celtics are a very good defensive team, and the scary thing is they will only get better.
Twelve games isn’t a massive body of work from which to evaluate a season, but it is a large enough sample to quell concerns shared by all about how this newly minted team would congeal. No matter the rough edges that still need to be knocked out you can’t argue with success and the best record in the league is pretty friggin’ successful.
EXCELLENT! EXCEELENT article Fin! Boy, am I glad you are here. With you and FL, we have two of the best writers around, IMO. I'm in heaven! Thank you!