With last night’s loss to Portland, the Celtics are now 9-4 since Rajon Rondo’s injury and — most recently — have given us a far more realistic look at life without their All-Star point guard.
Basically, the truth is that Celtics are still a good team without Rondo (and Jared Sullinger). They’re a team with a talented roster; one that is more talented than many of the rosters against which they compete. As a result, they’ll probably win more games than they lose. They should win more games than they lose.
But either way, at this point, the cause and effect goes much deeper than Rondo.
In other words, individual victories are no longer a matter of him not being there; individual losses are no longer a matter of him not being there. For the most part, Rondo no longer exists — not as a motivation or an excuse. The team has moved on, and as we approach the one month anniversary of the initial injury, it’s time that we all follow suit.
The debate will still be there when the season’s over — I promise. And by then, we’ll actually have a substantial Rondo-less body of work to judge and argue over. In the meantime, there are more pressing issues at hand, as the Celtics gear up for — hopefully — their sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Tonight in Utah, the C’s wrap up the most daunting stretch of their season. This five-game road trip is the longest they’ll face all year, and being out on the west coast certainly doesn’t help. Right now, they’re 1-3, and there’s obviously a big difference between coming home 2-3 and 1-4. Mentally, and in the standings — where they lead Milwaukee by only two games in the race to avoid a first round match-up with Miami.
The home stretch doesn’t look especially inviting for the Celtics. After tonight, they have 25 games left, and only 12 of those come at the Garden. Among the 13 road games, are trips to OKC, Memphis, New York, Indiana and Miami. They also host the Warriors, the Hawks (twice), the Knicks, Brooklyn and Miami.
It won’t be easy. And when you consider that this stretch will also feature strategic days off for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and even Jason Terry, the picture is cloudy and you wonder if they’ll be able to re-capture that rhythm they found in the immediate aftermath of Rondo’s injury. Then you factor in the sudden additions of (and reliance on) the likes of Terrence Williams, Jordan Crawford and D.J. White and the fact that while Jeff Green has started to turn some heads, you still don’t know what to expect on a game-to-game basis . . .
And really, the same is true for the Celtics.
We’re still not sure what they’ll do on any given night — whether they’ll go out and beat the Heat, or choke one away against the Bobcats. But for now, with the season starting to wind down, it sure seems like they’ve got enough to make the playoffs — without or without No. 9 — and as we’ve learned so many times before, once you make it to the second season, all bets are off.