The 2012-13 Boston Celtics have been as unpredictable as any team in the league this season. Since they defeated the Nets in Brooklyn on Christmas Day, the Celtics have gone on a four-game losing streak, six-game winning streak, six-game losing streak and another six-game winning streak. However, the reason that the most recent win streak is more impressive than the previous one is that each of those victories have come without Rajon Rondo.
As evidenced by their fantastic play over the last couple weeks, the Celtics have performed very well without their floor general. In fact, they are approximately 6.0 points better without Rondo per 100 possessions. On Sunday against the Nuggets, the Celtics will surpass 1,000 minutes played with their starting point guard off the floor this season, so this is no small sample size.
One of the reasons the Celtics have been succeeding without Rondo is their improvement in winning the turnover game with opponents. Since their ball dominator has been out of the lineup, the Celtics have yet to lose the turnover battle in any of the six contests. The Celtics with Rondo at the helm were unable to achieve such a six-game streak this season. His frequent ball control on offense led to more turnovers and his poor on-ball defense led to less forced turnovers. Replacing Rondo’s point duties with the mix of mostly Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce benefitted the Celtics. Doc Rivers has even admitted that he has no idea who is bringing the ball down the floor on a random possession.
The bench has also come alive with their scoring in this recent stretch. Over the last few weeks, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green have all set new season-long streaks in double-digit scoring. They are more comfortable now than they had been at any point this season. In addition, the bench as a whole has contributed at its highest level in a long time. Since New Year’s Day 2013, the Celtics have had at least three reserves score 12 or more points in five different contests. According to Elias Sports Bureau, in the previous four calendar years (2009-12), that happened only once (January 12, 2011 vs. Sacramento).
Let us not forget all of the captain’s statistical contributions. Not only has Pierce averaged 17.5 points per game during the winning streak, but he also has 9.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in that span. He is truly the team’s point forward and has succeeded thus far in that role. His career-bests for a season are 7.3 rebounds in 2002-03 and 5.1 assists in 2003-04. Moreover, Pierce has recorded at least five rebounds in 12 consecutive games for the first time since 2005.
All of these factors as well as Kevin Garnett scoring in double digits in each of the last six games have contributed to the Celtics’ great play. They now have three victories by more than 12 points in their last six games. In the first 43 games of 2012-13, the Celtics had just five such wins. While the Celtics might not be title contenders for this season, they sure believe they have a chance. Boston’s depth is much more useful than most thought after the first half of the season and many of those main players feeling reborn since the Rondo ACL injury.