Jan 28 2013 12:24PM

C's The Day


Jared Wickerham/Getty Images Sport

Boston's biggest sports fan went into panic mode Sunday when word circulated throughout TD Garden in the third quarter of the Celtic-Heat game that Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL and would be lost for the season.

Bill Simmons tweeted, "Just a death blow for the Celtics. Probably kills next season, too. No way they can keep KG and PP, have to blow it up now."

I immediately tweeted back, "Have faith in Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry."

I simply do not believe the Boston Celtics' season was lost Sunday afternoon.

Simmons later tweeted some trades Boston should make--one was Kevin Garnett for Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson of the Spurs and the other was Paul Pierce for Danny Granger of the Pacers. But he later deleted the tweet, probably remembering that KG has a no-trade clause in his contract. Either that or Simmons is having second thoughts about pronouncing the C's as deceased.

As Mark Twain once said, "I ain't dead!" Or something like that.

The best evidence of a Celtic heartbeat was seen in that second half when the Boston D shut off the Miami O in a thrilling double-overtime win, 100-98.

But the better intel is seen when you look at the Celtic guards' Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus numbers and how those three guards have been gelling with the Boston forwards and centers this season

I didn't include Leandro Barbosa's name in the original tweet because I am unsure how he will respond to the challenge.

He has struggled this season with limited playing time, but with Rondo going down, that should not be an issue anymore. The Celtics now need him as much as he needs them, as seen in Sunday's game when Barbosa played 30 minutes.

Because of that, I've included Barbosa's numbers in the mix too on this post.

Take a look at the advanced stats of the Boston guards.

OUT

Rajon Rondo, +1.52 RAPM, 18.3 PER

IN

Courtney Lee, -0.17 RAPM, 11.8 PER

Avery Bradley, -0.81 RAPM, 9.2 PER

Jason Terry, -0.57 RAPM, 11.7 PER

Leandro Barbosa, -3.93 RAPM, 14.1 PER

With the exception of Jason Terry, who has a 17.3 career Player Efficiency Rating, none of these replacement guards consistently posted above-average box-score stats in recent seasons.

So they are not likely to be going off for the occasional triple-double like Rondo used to do.

But Lee, Bradley and Jet are all equally effective in blending into various lineups as combo guards, as their good RAPMs suggest.

Are they as good as Rondo individually?

No.

But can they collectively rise up and do the job?

Perhaps. Especially if 30-year-old Barbosa can regain his 2009 form and chip in as a -1.1 RAPM/19.4 PER guard.

The four were a collective +4 in 116 minutes Sunday, only scoring 35 points on 35 shots, but doing the job defensively, holding the Heat guards to 44 points on 46 shots in 120 minutes.

In fact, with Rondo gone from Sunday's game, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers employed some three-guard, two-bigs lineups, going with 3 G's in 20 of the game's 58 minutes.

It should be interesting to see Doc mix-and-match with his four combo guards now.

In limited time this season, they already have shown they can play with most combinations that Doc has put on the floor.

Take a look at the most-used Celtic combos that use the various non-Rondo Celtic guards this season, along with their points-per-possession scores

THE COMBOS

Terry/ Lee/ Jeff Green/ Jared Sullinger/ Kevin Garnett 1.27 offense, 0.93 defense, 75.9 minutes

Barbosa/ Lee/ Green/ Sullinger/ Garnett 1.09 offense, 1.05 defense, 72.2 minutes

Terry/ Lee/ Pierce/ Brandon Bass/ Garnett 0.96 offense, 0.79 defense, 41.8 minutes

Barbosa/ Lee/ Green/ Sullinger/ Chris Wilcox 0.91 offense, 0.98 defense, 23.8 minutes

Terry/ Lee/ Green/ Bass/ Sullinger 1.07 offense, 0.75 defense, 23.1 minutes

As you can see, most of these lineups have been successful, grading out very well on defense, while doing so without playing much with Paul Pierce, who should make them even more efficient on offense, since he is the team's best offensive player.

I imagine these four guards will turn Boston back into a more defensive-ortented squad, with Pierce, Garnett and even the rookie Sullinger doing the heavy lifting offensively.

Keep in mind, this season's Celtics were abysmal on offense, ranking 23rd in offensive efficiency, while posting the eighth-best defensive efficiency.

That weak offense is a main reason why Boston brought in a 20-23 record into the Miami game.

But if these guards can tighten the D up to previous season's levels--second the last two years--I wouldn't be surprised if they go on a run and finish the season with a record well above .500.

Are the Celtics a better team without Rondo's playmaking abilities?

Of course not.

But can these four men raise their team up for half a season?

I think so.

We've seen Boston rise to the challenge before, time and time again.

And if I were the Boston Celtics or Danny Ainge or even Bill Simmons, I wouldn't the blow up the team this season.

After all, nobody in the East has won more playoff games the last five years than the team that was in a seven-game series with Miami in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.

You owe that much to former NBA champs Garnett, Pierce and even Terry.

They all have shown they know how to compete when their backs are against the wall.

SOURCES: Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus from Stats For The NBA; Lineup combinations from 82Games.com; Player Efficiency Rating from Hollinger's NBA Player Stats.