The Boston Celtics post-All-Star break success among their guard-play now seems short lived. A few wins strung together and some decent ball movement masked the giant void that Rajon Rondo has left this team to fill. The Celtics’ offense now appears to be in constant struggle in the half-court and they are only finding success in transition. To be struggling in the half-court offense on a regular basis when the team is trying to patch the leaks for a decent playoff run is not by any means a positive sign.
These struggles are directly related to the absence of Rondo. Not having your best player as well as your playmaker and facilitator on the floor when preparing for postseason play does not make for an easy task. There’s an immense amount of pressure on these guards to try and collectively fill the hole that exists in the post-Rondo lineup.
Avery Bradley- Bradley may have the toughest job of all the Celtics’ guards being only 22 years old and still noticeably raw with the ball anywhere near his hands. In his past five games he’s shot just 15-51 from the floor. His defensive intensity is still wreaking havoc on most opposing teams, but the Celtics’ offense as a whole is still starving for easy buckets. Bradley is by no means a natural point guard. He’s still able to get some open looks, but his shots simply aren’t falling and without Rondo’s court vision and assistance, playing off the ball hasn’t been an easy task for Bradley. Bradley’s best hope is to light a fire under this team defensively and try to create as much offense out of defense as possible. If he can get steals and get out in transition as well as start to hit the corner three and the inside pull-up a little more consistently- Doc Rivers can’t ask for much more than that. Defense will always be there, but he needs to be more reliable with the ball in his hands. It may just take time.
Courtney Lee- Lee is playing excellent perimeter defense alongside Bradley and they’ve quickly turned into the best defensive backcourt in the league. The trouble with Lee is that he still tends to get invisible on offense. Lee is still averaging just a mere 6.7 field goal attempts per game and his trademark attempts from the corner have been virtually non-existent. Lee simply needs to be more involved in this offense night in and night out. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in double digits every night.
Jason Terry- Terry appears to finally be settling in to his role, but his defense has become a bit of a liability. He’s a below average perimeter defender and guys are starting to go straight at him. Rivers will live with this as long as Terry is getting his shots. However, on average, Terry is still only getting 8.2 shot attempts per game, and at times he even looks uncharacteristically tentative when looking for his offense. Terry simply needs the green light at all times to try and get back to his usual playoff form.
Jordan Crawford- Crawford has somehow gained the trust of Rivers just by being himself. He’s an enigma who can at times create a lot of offense out of little opportunity. Crawford is still finding his way on this team and recently he’s even shown some decent playmaking abilities. If Crawford can balance his energy with just a little bit of court vision then he will greatly assist this team come playoff time. However, if he plays his usual brand of hero-ball and doesn’t make smarter shot selections, he may lose Rivers trust.
The enormous shoes Rondo has left to fill are starting to become more evident with each passing game. The Celtics will need to keep ball movement at the front of their collective brains to try and fix a depleted half-court offense. It’s a lot to ask out of four role players and if they can’t improve Rivers will have to rely on Paul Pierce and Jeff Green bringing the ball up for the sake of everyone involved. The playoffs are right around the corner, and the Celtics’ backcourt is still soul searching.
Eric St. Cyr Covers the Boston Celtics for Rant Sports. Follow Him on Twitter @ericJsaint