When the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City last month, there was a sentiment that the team would be negatively impacted on the defensive end. Who knew that the C's would be experience any real problems on the offensive side?
Such is the current state of the Celts, who have dropped three of four to fall out of first place overall in the Eastern Conference, and looked dreadful at times on offense in doing so. They will look to right the ship Wednesday night when the Indiana Pacers come to town at 7:30 p.m. EST, on Comcast Sports Net New England.
The C's (47-18) have scored fewer than 90 points four times in their last five games, the worst of which was an 88-79 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Monday night. Paul Pierce scored just seven points in that one and is averaging just 10.7 per night over his last three games. But of greater concern of late has been the play of Rajon Rondo. The Celts point guard is nursing an array of minor injuries, which may or may not explain his play of late. In the Celtics last five games, Rondo is dishing out just 6.8 assists, down nearly five from his season average. He is shooting just 34 percent over that stretch compared to 49 percent for the season, and the Celts as a team are subsequently scoring nearly nine fewer points per night than their mark for the year, 88.8 against 97.7. In the 10 games since Perkins, his best friend on the team, was traded, Rondo's shooting percentage is down nine points and he is just 2 of his last 16 from the floor.
"I don't know if he's slumping, but he's not playing great right now," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe after Monday night's loss. "He's just going through a stretch. It's a long season. He's human, last time I checked."
Rivers' downplaying of Rondo's difficulties may be right on the money, but there is still reason for worry. Rondo is what makes the Celts offensive engine go and as the numbers attest, when he struggles, they struggle too.
The Pacers may be the cure for just what ails the C's. Indiana has won two in a row, both over the Knicks, and currently holds down the final playoff spot in the East despite being nine games under .500 (29-38). But the Pacers haven't beaten the Celtics in Boston in their last seven tries and had lost six in a row before the two wins against the Knicks. They are led by forward Danny Granger, who averages 20.7 PPG and hit the game winning jumper with 0.3 seconds left to beat New York on Tuesday night.
The Celtics will have guard Delonte West back Wednesday night. He has been out since spraining his ankle in a walkthrough practice on Feb. 26.