Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers seems to have found his formula and although it is not ideal, it’s what’s working. Rivers will continue to rely on his top eight players in the rotation to play at a high level and take on a good sized minute-load. Rivers has even said himself that the new roster additions are specifically here to fill out the bench, not take minutes from those who have already earned them. It should be quite plain to see that players picked up from the CBA in China aren’t suddenly going to take minutes from NBA caliber players. After all, there is a reason why they were in China.
Lately, the Celtics’ defense first mentality has allowed them to get their offense into a nice rhythm as well. With Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley as a perimeter duo, the steals and lay ups are just going to keep coming. That’s Rivers’ favorite kind of offense and the Celtics are going to bank on that full-court pressure all the way down the stretch, as it doesn’t really show any signs that it will stop working at any point. Bradley and Lee may have their weaknesses on the offensive end without a natural ball handler on the floor, but these two are by far the best defensive back-court league-wide, and it still seems as if opponents are not respecting their abilities.
The Celtics are committed to Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford for an extended period of time. If there are any two players that can play their way into a short rotation it will most likely be one or both of these two guards. Rivers can use Williams as a back-up ball handler to maybe get players like Bradley, Lee, and Jason Tery off the ball so they can play more freely, especially Terry who will need to find his shots come playoff time. Crawford is already showing some promise in short minutes, and although his decision making can be a little inconsistent, he’s showed Rivers that he can be semi-reliable on the glass and that he may be good for 10 points and a couple of rebounds on any given night. Crawford seems to have bought into the system as far as defense first and understanding the rotations.
Shavlik Randolph and D.J. White have the important task of staying attentive and being ready to play when asked. This is a size depleted team that is really going to rely heavily on Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Chris Wilcox as their front court players in most of Rivers’ small ball lineups. Wilcox’s contribution is key here because aside from Garnett he really the only true viable NBA big man. Bass’s energy on the glass as well as Green’s will be crucial down the stretch, but the Celtics have oddly beaten teams that have out-rebounded them way too often this year. If the Celtics don’t improve their collective effort on the glass it’s not going to be a long postseason run for them. Production and consistency is huge from these four.
With a short rotation, guys can get in proper rhythm and get the right amount of touches to get into a groove offensively, which is always an area the Celtics need to keep gradually improving. Yes, the Celtics will continue to miss Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa, but with a shorter rotation comes a more close-knit group. The Celtics will continue to rally around their fallen brothers. So far it’s working.
Eric St. Cyr Covers the Boston Celtics for Rantsports.com Follow him on Twitter @ericJsaint