I have come up with some questions for this year’s Celtics team while still waiting for Doc Rivers to decide to send a double-team at Andrew Bogut:
I ask this question not to set up an argument with myself, but because there are definitely points during games when I watch Rondo play and I think he is as good a point guard as there is in the NBA right now. So, is he the best point-guard in the NBA? Sometimes.
When Rondo is playing well, he dominates the game all over the court in a way I don’t think any other guard can or does. As for statistics, Rondo is first in the NBA in steals at 2.47 per game (second place is Monta Ellis at 2.17). He is third in assists, 9.8, behind only Steve Nash and Chris Paul. Rondo leads all guards in field-goal percentage, 51.7, and his 31 double-doubles rank seventh in the NBA and second among all point-guards (Nash has 38).
Anyone who has watched Rondo, however, knows statistics do not tell the whole story. He can create havoc all over the court and on a near nightly basis, he has a move that I have to rewind to watch over again.
But, and here is where I will argue with myself. Sometimes being the best point guard, or the best at anything, is not good enough to really be considered the best. The answer has to be better than sometimes.
While Rondo’s best is on a level with anyone else’s, he still has not found a way to maintain that level over long stretches. He remains very inconsistent, not just from game to game, but in any given game he will go from making an impact to almost disappearing.
As exciting a player as Rondo can be, when his game drops off, he essentially becomes non-existent on the court. There is no middle ground. What really separates Rondo from the elite point guards is that far too often, this disappearing act occurs down the stretch of games. The game will slow down and Rondo almost becomes a bystander to the action.
He is far too talented for that to happen as often as it does. Until Rondo can maintain a more consistent level of play, he will remain just on the outside looking in at the game’s elite point guards. Rondo is just 24, and has improved in nearly every statistical category each season. So, he is getting close.
I think the answer is yes. Back on December 8, the Celtics, behind 25 points from Kevin Garnett, defeated the Bucks 98-89. At that point of the season, Boston was 17-4 and the loss dropped Milwaukee to 9-11. Since that point, the Celtics have gone 23-18, while the Bucks have done slightly better at 25-18.
Boston has struggled against the elite teams in the NBA as has been well documented. They went into last night’s game against the Bucks having won four in a row, there longest winning streak since December. The four wins came over Detroit, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington. Nice wins, but not exactly the cream of the crop.
Last night was a back and forth game, and the Celtics had a shot at the end to either win or tie. The Bucks are currently the five seed in the Eastern Conference, in a close race with Toronto, Charlotte, Miami, and Chicago to fill out the bottom half of the playoff bracket.
It is possible the Celtic could see the Bucks again in the opening round of the playoffs. And what no one would have thought at the beginning of the season may turn out to be true – a series between Boston and Milwaukee could match up two evenly matched teams.
I can’t. Garnett had a relatively good night last night, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, just his second double-double in his last 27 games (it should be noted he had zero offensive rebounds and only one rebounds in the second half). Allen and Pierce did not play well, though, shooting a combined 3-16.
Going through this year’s game, it is a stretch to come up with one game where all three player well. In the win over the Bucks on December 8, Garnett had 25 points and nine rebounds, Pierce 15 points, five boards, and five assists, and Allen had 13 points. They shot a combined 18-31.
The previous night against Oklahoma City, the Big Three combined for 55 points on 20-33 shooting, with both Garnett and Pierce scoring over 20 points. But Allen had just 11 on 4-11 shooting.
Against the Phoenix Suns back on November 6, they combined for 58 points on 25-46 from the floor, to go with 19 rebounds and 14 assists. But Pierce shot just 5-15 and it was in a loss.
Going all the way back to opening night, a 95-89 win over Cleveland, Garnett, Allen, and Pierce totaled 52 points and 23 rebounds and shot 16-39 from the floor.
The answer then is it has not really happened this year, at least not at a level warranting the nickname “The Big Three.” Two obvious ways of looking that: either they are due or they are over the hill and it isn’t happening. You can decide for yourselves.
For years, almost since his arrival in Boston back in 1999, it has been a foregone conclusion that the ball will be in Pierce’s hands when the game is on the line.
A funny thing happened though on Sunday against the Wizards. The Celtics were down by a point with under 24-seconds to go. A play was drawn up for Allen to get an open look and it worked out perfectly, with Allen draining the game-winning three-pointer.
Afterwards, Allen said in an interview that the first option on the play was to get him the ball. I nodded in agreement, because as great and as clutch as Pierce has been, at that moment, I trusted Allen more with the ball in the situation, and wanted him to get a look rather than an isolation play for Pierce.
Even last night, against the Bucks, Pierce had a shot to tie the game in the closing moments, but missed. Neither Pierce (3-13) nor Allen (0-3) had good shooting nights from the floor, but before Pierce took the shot, I found myself thinking that if I was drawing up the plays, I would have tried to get Ray the shot as the primary option.
Talent wise, it is not even close. Williams is a very limited player, who can bang inside, score on put backs, and that is about it. Wallace during this season, on a few occasions, has shown he can still be a major factor in games – most notably this occurred around the trade deadline when a cynical person could say Wallace decided to try in order to convince Danny Ainge not to think about trading him. Once the deadline passed, Wallace went back to his minimal effort ways.
That is why I would rather see Williams out there. At least the guy is going to play hard, rebound, maybe get the team some second chances on offense. Wallace does none of those things. I have begun to notice that the only time Wallace grabs a rebound is when the ball comes right to him and he doesn’t have to move, jump, or box out.
We are not even done with year one of Wallace in Boston and I have long since tired of watching him play. Every single time he shoots a three, I cringe. I don’t even like it when he makes a three, because yes, the three points are good, but I know it just means there will be more threes on the way.
On a related note, as Doc Rivers continues to play the ever-improving, hard-working, effective Kendrick Perkins less and less minutes (the 25-year old is actually playing less minutes this year than he did last year), I wonder how fast Doc would bench Perkins for a long time if Perk ever decided to chuck up three-pointers at the rate Rasheed has?