New Starting Lineup Has Sparked the Celtics

Jason Terry

Jason Terry has brought his confidence from the bench into the starting lineup, and it has helped to spark the Celtics.
Jonathan Daniel/NBAE/Getty Images

BOSTON – Has Doc Rivers finally discovered his long-term starting lineup? The performance of the Boston Celtics over their past two games has us thinking yes.

Rivers has been experimenting with his rotation since training camp began back on Sept. 29 in Waltham, Mass. He has told anyone who will listen since that day that he truly believes he will use a ‘transitional starting lineup’ throughout this season.

Boston’s first two-plus weeks of the season have done nothing to disprove Rivers’ comments. Rivers has used three different starting lineups in the team’s first seven games. He has been searching for the right combination of players, both in the starting unit and the bench, to carry the C’s to a successful regular season.

As of Nov. 10, that combination may have been discovered.

Rivers made the decision to remove Courtney Lee from the starting shooting guard position and insert Jason Terry. That move wasn’t exactly the initial plan, as Terry was brought into Boston to be the team’s primary shooter off of the bench. However, that move, coupled with the decision to put Brandon Bass in the starting lineup rather than rookie Jared Sullinger, has paid huge dividends already.

The Celtics are 2-0 since those changes were made, with wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. Those opponents are no slouches, as they were a combined 7-3 heading into their tilts with the C’s.

The true improvements Boston has exhibited in those games can’t necessarily be judged by wins. Other tangible information supports the idea that the Celtics are simply a better team with Terry and Bass in the starting lineup alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Take these numbers, for instance. Boston’s starters are a cumulative plus-103 points in the plus/minus category during their last two games. All five starters finished with a positive number in that category in both games.

How good is that? Well, it’s much better than the minus-53 cumulative points Boston’s starters totaled up during the team’s first five games of the season. Two of those games featured all five Celtics starters finishing with a negative plus/minus total.

It’s also obvious to the naked eye that Boston is a much better offensive team with this group starting the game. This group looks comfortable with each other. They look like they belong on the floor with one another. The ball is hopping as well as it has all season.

“I thought we executed extremely well,” Rivers confirmed after Monday’s win in Chicago. “Offensively it was some of our best ball movement.”

Execution and ball movement are two of the staples of Celtics Basketball. This organization doesn’t pride itself on personal stats or one-on-one play. The Celtics win as a team, and it all starts with the unit that’s on the floor for the opening tip.

Rivers has been searching for the crew that will set the proverbial table for his team each and every night. There are only two games of evidence, but the numbers and the eye test tell us that this new starting lineup might be the long-term starting lineup.