The output on offense has been replaced, while the defensive effort and ability appears to also be much greater. Too often Rondo freelanced on the defensive side, allowing defenders to beat him before trying to knock the ball free from behind. With him now sidelined, the Celtics are working with a half-court defense that has great integrity. Built of off Garnett's presence and communication inside, the Celtics' defensive aggression begins with Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee on the outside. Lee and Bradley don't possess the same natural offensive ability as Rondo, but they are both very gifted defensive players with the tenacity to consistently counter guards from end to end. Doc Rivers can trust the combination to stay disciplined without sacrificing aggression when pressuring the opposition away from the basket. That kind or pressure limits the pressure on the Celtics' bigs to sprint back down the floor after made baskets, while it forces the opposing team's guards to be very precise and controlled when trying to execute in half-court.
With Bradley and Lee both being capable offensive role players, if not leading stars, the Celtics are able to be efficient enough on the offensive end to take advantage of their defensive resilience.
When the Celtics had Rondo in the lineup, there was a certain element of expectation on his shoulders that combined with his own selfish traits that was hurting the overall efficiency of the team. Everyone involved needs to take partial blame for that, but it can't be denied that without Rondo the rest of the team has stepped up. The reason for it isn't important, the fact that it has happened is all that matters.
We really should have seen this coming. Rivers, Pierce and Garnett were never going to let this team quit and fall to the wayside. This may just be the short fight that follows a setback. But maybe, just maybe it may be the sign of a team willing to win the war.
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