Celtic guards pass the backup PG test

After a terrible first-half showing that basically got our butts kicked (Doc’s words) miraculously ended with only a 9-point difference, Celtics had a great battle last night only to lose it by one bogus foul call on Barbosa and 4 missed FTs by the top FT shooters of the league. The game last night wasn’t the prettiest, but I was still satisfied with the level of play overall in an away Segababa (which we traditionally suck at) against a loaded team (who were 4-2 before the game) and without Rondo (we win 62.5% of those games).

In my analysis yesterday, I predicted that Barbosa would continue its scoring spark against Deron Williams and that Doc would experiment with a lineup that consists of Lee at 1 and Green at 2. Both happened and were satisfactory to a high degree (except for Green's defense in the latter). Barbosa scored 17 points, and looked explosive out there. He also contributed with 2 steals, which is just cream on top. When Barbosa rested, it was mostly Lee who took over the ball handling role, and he had his best showing of the season last night. He had 13 points, 9 rebounds (team high) and had 3 assists and 3 steals, which is simply amazing. The way he rebounded the ball showed his basketball IQ and how he can imitate Rondo’s role, which was the best part of his game last night in my opinion.

In a nutshell, Barbosa covered what Rondo does offensively, and Lee covered what he does defensively. Rondo is not solely a passer for Celtics, it is the other stuff that he does like rebounding and stealing that contributes to the team. This is not a statistically sound way to look at things, but just for the impression: Barbosa and Lee played for 63 minutes and combined for 30 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals and only 1 turnover. Adjust it to Rondo’s usual playing time, and you get 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and almost no turnovers. That is perfectly acceptable.

Now, as fellow writer Walsh pointed out last night while we were talking about the game, things got ugly down the stretch offensively, and we had a low number of assists (17) for a team that averages 25 per season. I agree with that, yet there are two things that make me say the guards pass the test. First of all, I don’t think there will be any better backup PGs to help in the assist department available even with a trade. Secondly, Celtics played with a different identity last night, and just looking at assist numbers might be deceiving. We had 12 offensive rebounds (we averaged 6 this season) and those turned into 12 second-chance points. We also had 18 points off turnovers, and those points come assistless mostly. We made shots at a rate close to our average, it wasn’t an outlier night in that column. That Bass missed more than a few open shots that would've counted as assists didn't help either. So even though I agree that our execution was definitely lacking without Rondo, I think what we have was still solid, and if we were a bit more physical in the first half, things would’ve looked prettier in general.