Mark L. Baer/US Presswire
Kevin Garnett goes to the hoop for a bucket.BOSTON -- Before Friday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his entire roster would serve as backup point guard to make up for the absence of Rajon Rondo, who was serving the first half of a two-game suspension.
The Celtics proceeded to assist on 20 of 36 field goals, with those helpers distributed among seven different players, topped by Courtney Lee and Paul Pierce (five assists apiece) and Kevin Garnett (four) en route to a 96-78 triumph at TD Garden.
"We just basically played through the bigs," Rivers said. "We took all the pressure off the guards -- all they had to do is bring it up and then throw it to Kevin [Garnett] at the elbow, or Jared [Sullinger] at the elbow and then cut and move. That way there’s no dribbling; it was easier for them that way. And that's what I meant before the game when I said I told everybody was going to be the point guard. Basically what I was saying was, our bigs were the point guards today."
No Rondo, no problem, right? At least against a not-so-daunting Portland defense that was vulnerable in transition.
"That's one thing we tried to do with this game -- first get a stop, get the rebound, then throw the ball ahead and get easy points in the fast break," Lee said. Sure enough, the Celtics finished with a 20-12 advantage in fast-break points, but still found ways to generate open looks in half-court sets by putting the ball in the hands of their veterans.
"We played off Paul, and we played off Kevin a lot," Lee added. "That definitely helps us a lot."
So did generating consistent stops. Rivers has been emphatic that Boston's offense is often fueled by the ability to run when able to produce multiple stops against an opponent (a bit of a rarity this season).
The lack of Rondo to run the offense also forced players such as Jeff Green to be more aggressive on the offensive end. Instead of waiting for Rondo to find him in open spots, Green went hard at the basket and was rewarded with a season-high 19 points.
"We have to make plays," Green said. "We have to have everybody step up. Courtney played tremendous, [Jason Terry], [Leandro Barbosa] -- we've got to do it as a team. Rondo's our captain, he's our leader, and it's tough when he's not here, so everybody as a group, we've got to come together and hold together as a team and try to take his place."