A few more thoughts after the Celtics topped the 76ers on Wednesday night:
With the usual qualifier that the strength of opponent recently has been extremely low, Rajon Rondo has been spectacular the past two games while showing signs of his old self in wins over Orlando and Philadelphia. His stat line alone is encouraging as Rondo is averaging 13.5 points on 68.4 percent shooting with 10.5 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals over 29.5 minutes per game in those two outings. But zoom in on Rondo's impact on the team and it's even more impressive.
During Rondo's 59 minutes of court time over the last two contests, the Celtics own an offensive rating of 112.7 points per 100 possessions (second-best on the team behind only starting backcourt mate Avery Bradley at 117.2) and the team's defensive rating is 97 for a plus-15.8 differential (highest on the team over the past two games). What's more, during Rondo's 37 minutes off the floor, the Celtics own an offensive rating of 99.3 and a
defensive rating of 105.9, for a net differential of minus-6.6 (far and away the worst differential on the team in that span).
Rondo, as he's shaken the rust of a yearlong absence, has brought a calmness and a confidence to the offense and his playmaking abilities are reflected in a Boston team that has shot 49.4 percent overall in these two wins (this after not shooting 50 percent since early December before flirting around that number the last two games). Can Rondo maintain this sort of impact against elite competition? We'll find out later this month, but the reason for Boston's "anything is possible" chatter is in large part due to Rondo's inspired play.
LEAPS AND BOUNDS
After losing to these 76ers last week in Boston, the Celtics owned the third-worst record in the league with only Orlando and Milwaukee behind them. Now, with consecutive wins for the first time since mid-December, Boston has climbed to the fifth-worst record in basketball (and the Celtics are mere fraction points behind the Lakers and Kings in front of them).
Those rooting for a high draft position probably need not fret. The strength of schedule ramps up soon and Boston is still only 3 ½ games up over Orlando. If nothing else, it hammers home how crazy the Eastern Conference is this season and the logjam that exists at the bottom of the standings.
SULLY'S STRONG NIGHT
In a game in which Rondo controlled the offense, Jeff Green went off for 36 points and Brandon Bass (18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with six rebounds) put together a solid evening, Jared Sullinger's effort will blend into the scenery a bit. But it shouldn't.
Sullinger finished with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds, five assists, four(!) blocks, and a steal over 35 minutes. Where to start? Sullinger has now put up three straight double-doubles, averaging 21.3 points and 13 rebounds over the past three outings. On Wednesday, Sullinger hit a monster 3-pointer (a shot that has betrayed him a bit at times lately) in a one-possession game with 8:16 to go, then had two big plays around the basket late in the contest (storming the baseline for a dunk at one point, then drawing the foul during an old-fashioned three-point play in the final minute).
Add in the career-high four blocks and Sullinger maximized his minutes, proving himself a force on both ends of the court.
BACK TO LIFE
Our buddy Jay from Red's Army posted this fun GIF of Brandon Bass "resuscitating" Rondo after he took one of two first-half charges. It's ironic, considering the way Rondo has resuscitated the Boston offense.