The Celtics have fallen on hard times, there’s no question about it. They lost six straight dating back to January 16th and three of those six loses came against sub .500 teams including; the Hornets, Pistons and Cavaliers. Their most recent loss on Friday to the Hawks, might have left the biggest questions of heart for the Celtics, though, as they blew a 27-point lead to lose the game. The significance of Sunday’s home game against Miami could only be larger if there were playoff implications on the line or if the winner advanced to the Finals.
The Celtics needed to break this funk and get back on track, working their way up the ranks of the East before they fell even farther than the 8th seed they currently hold. In order to do that, a statement win against the defending champs and former teammate, Ray Allen, to break their skid, would be necessary. . From bad to worst for Boston, their All-Star point-guard, Rajon Rondo, would be forced to sit out with a hyperextended knee he suffered in Friday’s double overtime loss to Atlanta… Or so it seemed. Being deemed “out” 15 minutes prior to tip off, Rondo went to a nearby hospital for an MRI where the results showed what everyone was fearing, the Celtics glue man had a torn ACL that would require surgery and sitting out for the rest of the season. With Rondo gone, the Celtics on a losing streak and the Heat having that one guy who’s really good at basketball, we’ll call him “LeBron,” Miami winning almost seemed inevitable at this point; but if a Carmelo-less Knicks team could rally to beat the defending champs, why can’t the Celtics? Well, it took two overtimes, a triple double by “The Truth,” Paul Pierce, and a stellar performance by forward, Jeff Green, but the C’s managed to salvage a victory against Heat at the Garden 100-98. While the victory is a turn in the positive direction for the struggling squad, it’s a bitter-sweet day for the team as they’re forced to move forward without their All-Star guard.
“It’s disappointing news, but guys have to be ready to step up,” said Celtics Forward, Paul Pierce, upon hearing the news.
To that point, only the coaching staff knew about Rondo’s injury and even that came as a huge surprise to Doc and the club. Doc said Rondo had went through the walk through seemingly fine to that point and with about 24 minutes until tip-off, the team doctor told him Rondo’s out. That left Doc with a puzzled look; he had to ask, looking baffled, “What do you mean? He went through shoot-around…” Doc also expressed how emotions were running high in the locker room after the game and I don’t blame them one bit. Rondo is, as stated earlier, an All-Star this year; he’s averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds through 38 games this season, will be sorely missed.
As it stands right now, the Celtics are 21-23 and currently the 8th seed in the East Conference with a steady 2 ½ game
lead of ninth place Philadelphia. This is definitely not what the Celtics needed down the stretch when they were getting close to what experts were proclaiming as “Lakers bad.” But that’s not killing the moral of the team, for the most part. The Celtics understand that there’s still 38 games remaining in the season and they still have a solid shot to be Cinderella. While this injury is a dark shadow on a shaky season for the C’s, it could also be a beam of light for third-year player, Avery Bradley and first-year Celtic, Courtney Lee; Lee, started in place of Rondo today and while he gave a rough 25 minute performance, if these two can step up and fill the shoes Rondo had, the Celtics could hold on for a playoff spot and once the show starts, anything is possible. I personally like the look of Lee and Bradley filling the backcourt. No, I’m not happy Rondo’s injured, I just don’t feel the circumstances are as bad as some people are making them seem. This has potential to break Bradley out, as a player and Lee to develop even further into a role. While neither of them are the facilitator Rondo is (Bradley and Lee combine for 2.4 assists in 47 minutes a game) It’s a great chance for them to showcase their skills and develop. These are exactly the situations that players emerge from to become role players, so be patient.
There’s one other final sign of hope for Boston this year; the trade deadline hasn’t past. Given the circumstances, don’t be surprised if Danny Ainge and company make a move for a guard in the waning hours of the deadline on Thursday, February 21st. If the Celtics can pull that off, the season isn’t a lost cause, after all. Doc Rivers certainly doesn’t think so and made it clear in the post game press conference when he told the media, “You can write the obituary, I’m not.”
Boston’s next game is January 30th vs Sacramento
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images