LOS ANGELES When Rajon Rondo was on the floor, there was no question that he was the Celtics' floor leader.
Besides having the ball in his hand more than anyone else, often his play at both ends of the floor would set the tone as to how the Celtics would play.
With him out of the mix, the ability of Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley to fill that void has been one of the more overlooked aspects of the C's strong play as they have put together wins in eight of their last 10 games.
"It's not said but, simultaneously and kind of inadvertently, we're following their lead," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "Those two have been very good for us."
In Boston's 97-90 loss at Denver on Tuesday, it was their play at both ends of the floor that kept the Celtics in the game when the team's usual 1-2 punch -- Garnett and Paul Pierce -- struggled to make the kind of impact the C's are accustomed to.
And with tonight's game against the Los Angeles Lakers being a back-to-back, the C's may once again need strong games from players besides their two future Hall of Famers.
For a team that prides itself on its defense, having Lee and Bradley start games is about as ideal a scenario for the Celtics.
But as important as it is for them to play strong defensively, Celtics coach Doc Rivers needs them to provide more in order for the C's to be successful.
Against the Nuggets on Tuesday, the C's took a 50-49 lead into the half. Bradley and Lee accounted for 24 of the Celtics' first-half points which included a jumper by Lee with just before the halftime horn sounded.
"We need that on this trip and the rest of the season," Rivers said.
Prior to the all-star break, Rivers said he spoke with both players as to what he expected from them once they returned.
"We have to be a little more aggressive for them in pick-and-rolls and attacking the basket," Rivers said. "They were pretty good."
But their success will still be predicated in large part by the play of Pierce and Garnett.
"When you got KG and you got Paul, they're going to draw a lot of attention," Lee said. "So when they get the ball, they draw doubles. And then me and Avery are open."
And when they are open, their ability to knock down open shots or drive to the basket has created another means in which the C's can generate offense.
Both have managed to strike a balance between being more aggressive while still finding ways to continue playing off of the team's two core guys.
"It's not hard at all," Lee said. "We know that those are our go-to guys. For us to get open and get the best looks, we have to go through them. They're good players, they're both unselfish and they're going to make the right plays as far as find the open man."
For Garnett, it has been refreshing to see the work each has put in their game, pay off both individually and for the Celtics.
"I'm proud of those two," Garnett said. "They've worked really, really hard to get to where they are. They've been busting their ass night-in, night-out. You have to tip your hat, try to continue to encourage them."