WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT OUR CELTICS IN TORONTO: They may be Rondo-less, but the Boston Celtics are anything but rudderless.
Since the all-star point guard went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will leave him sidelined until at least the beginning of next season, the Celtics have collectively pulled together to make it work without him.
So far they have won four in a row and as Dwane Casey found out this week, the Celtics present a problem for the teams preparing for them because you no longer know who will have the ball.
With Rondo manning the point, the ball always began in his hands but with Avery Bradley now filling his shoes, the play can begin with anyone from Kevin Garnett to Paul Pierce to Bradley possessing the ball.
And that’s one of the reasons Casey isn’t particularly surprised the Celtics have played so well without Rondo.
“They still have a veteran team,” Casey said. “They still have a championship pedigree with Garnett, Pierce, and those guys. They know how to win. They know how to play. What you have now is more ball movement and stretching teams out. You are so used to Rondo having the ball and now it’s zinging around quarterbacking through Garnett, quarterbacking through Pierce so it’s kind of a mystery where that ball is going. The whole league is going to have to get used to this.”
Boston Celtics (24-23) at Toronto Raptors (17-31)
7 p.m. Air Canada Centre, Sportsnet, AM-590
Rudy Gay vs. Paul Pierce
Two games in Rudy Gay has already scored 49 points in his Raptors tenure and it’s not like he’s going to be seeing less of the basketball as he gets more comfortable. Gay has settled in nicely in a short time and credits his new teammates, who have welcomed him with open arms for the easy transition. Paul Pierce, meanwhile, has picked up his game since Rajon Rondo’s season came to a premature halt. Pierce, always a dangerous scorer has averaged 17.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists in the four straight wins the Celtics have accumulated since Rondo’s bad news. Pierce is shooting 45.1% from the field over that span and 40% from three. In his two games as a Raptor, Gay is shooting 48.7% from the field and 36.4 % from three.
As previously mentioned, the Celtics have somehow won the first four games since Rondo shut things down for the year. On paper that just doesn’t make sense. How does a team get better without one of its best players. But the 4-0 record doesn’t lie. Prior to the four wins, the Celtics had lost six in a row, and prior to that, they had won six in a row. Forrest Gump would have a field day with this team. But as long as they have Pierce and Kevin Garnett playing at a high level and surrounded by solid talent like Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry, the Celtics have the ability to play with anyone. Lately that talent has been not only on display but playing at peak levels.
DID YOU KNOW
In addition to Rondon’s season-ending news, the Celtics lost power forward Jared Sullinger for the remainder of the year following lumbar disc surgery … While the Celtics own a nine-game winning streak against the Raptors on their home court, they have been on the short end of the score the past two trips to the Air Canada Centre … In the past four games, all wins, the Celtics bench has average 46 points a night and twice were at 50 bench points or bette