|The Boston Celtics haven't lost since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. (Getty Images)|
Since Rondo was diagnosed with a torn ACL, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season, the Celtics haven't lost a game. With their 106-104 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon, Boston has gone the opposite direction of what people assumed it would do without its fearless point guard. The Celtics are surging toward the playoffs instead of wilting away from one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics are full of veteran players, which explains why they didn't let the should-be-devastating loss negatively affect them right away. They don't have a traditional point guard on the roster right now. Avery Bradley and Jason Terry are the primary ball handlers and you see that reflected in how they're taking care of the ball.
Before Rondo went down, the Celtics had improved a problem that plagued them over the years. In the previous five seasons, Boston had been in the bottom 11 of the league for turnover percentage each season and has often been in the bottom seven of the NBA. For playing such a grind-it-out game, the Celtics are usually throwing the ball recklessly around the half court. However, this season they've been taking care of the ball. Before Rondo went down, they were turning the ball over 15.3 percent of their possessions (11th in the NBA).
Since Rondo has been out, the Celtics are turning the ball over 17.1 percent of their possessions, which would be the worst rate in the NBA over the course of a season. However, they're making up for it by making more shots (eFG percentage of 52.2 compared to 49.1 previously), forcing more turnovers (19.0 percent to 16.4 percent previously) and keeping their opponents off the free throw line (FTA rate of 22.1 percent to 30.5 percent previously).
The Celtics have banded together under the direction of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. KG has been deadly from the field, making 56.0 percent of his shots without Rondo and Pierce has taken over the role player of doing it all on the court. Pierce's four-game averages since Rondo went down are 17.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range. Previously inconsistent role players like Jason Terry and Jeff Green have also stepped up by making well over half their shots and becoming deep threats on the floor.
The question is how long can the Celtics keep this up? With today's win, they crept over the .500 mark at 24-23. They've taken advantage of a home-heavy schedule with all four wins coming at home. With three of their next five games coming at home before they embark on a five-game Western Conference road trip, the Celtics have the opportunity to not only build a cushion but also think about climbing out of the eighth seed and ahead of the Bucks and Hawks, who are 1.5 and 2.5 games ahead of Boston.
The Celtics haven't figured out what's wrong with their team and they haven't discovered the trick to surviving without Rondo long-term. But if they can continue to ride out this emotional banding together like you hope veteran teams can do, perhaps they'll be able to pile up victories and delay the demise many people expect to happen.
This is life in today's NBA, apparently. A star point guard goes down with a knee injury and everybody else has to figure out how to make it through. The Celtics are just the latest test subjects.