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10.22.2009

A Team Built for the Playoffs

I'm predicting that the Celtics' defense will be the dominant story in the league -- not necessarily in the first month but rather as the year wears on. Age may limit them during the regular season as Doc Rivers sacrifices a win here and there while resting Ray Allen, Wallace and Garnett (all 33 or older), but let's assume they've been well paced and they're healthy going into the playoffs. By then, their age and experience should rally them as they realize this may be their final chance at a title together.

LINK

I tend to agree with this guy. I don't know how many W's we'll get this year. But, like this author, I think we'll get better as the season progresses. I'm also optimistic that we'll be mostly healthy heading into the playoffs. I think the bench will help keep us healthier than last year. Once in the playoffs, this team promises to be something else.

Let's start with the bench (you'll see why in a second). Eddie House typifies the strength of the bench. Shorn of his point-guard responsibilities, Eddie may set a team record for points-per-minute by a rotational player. Defenses won't really be able to spend too much time worrying about him, because Squisy will be driving to the hole, where he's proving increasingly lethal, scoring or passing. If you got those two guys covered, there's always Sheed outside and Baby underneath. Is there any doubt the second unit will eliminate deficits, expand leads, and otherwise make an indelible impression on basketball games this season?

Which brings us to the first unit.

I read something last week (and thought I wrote about it, too, but can't find it. Turns out my memory was correct, because here it is) saying that the Celtics' bench was more productive than any other bench last season, but weren't near the top in PT. This meant, of course, that the starters had to play more minutes. In turn, this meant that the starters had to pace themselves. I emphasize this because there is a double-negative at play when this happens. You aren't getting your best from the starters when they are playing (because they are pacing themselves) and they are still worn out at the end of the year because they played so many minutes. If the bench is really as good as we think they will be, expect the starters to go full-bore when in the game this year, but still play fewer minutes overall. That could make a big difference.

I'm not going to talk a lot about Rondo. Suffice it to say if he improves, the Celtics will be even better, and even if it isn't pretty, I like what I've seen from his J the last couple of games. No hesitation, and he's making a decent number again.

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