Playoff Contention: Boston Celtics
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Kevin Garnett has not been as much of a post presence defensively as he has been in years past, but don't count the kid out.
The 36-year-old Celtic has a knack for turning it on in April and coming up big in May when all the chips are on the table.
Yes, his defensive numbers have slipped a tiny bit (95.3 to 96.4 team defensive rating when KG is on the floor).
But perhaps it is because his team's defensive numbers are dropping a bit more (second-ranked 95.5 to fifth-ranked 100.0 team defensive rating decline).
All it takes, as we've learned from experience, is one Chris Bosh injury and the C's may find themselves in the same position as last season, up 3-2 over Bosh-less Miami in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, with KG kicking the Heat's seat, both on offense and on defense that series.
Bosh returned from injury in Game 5 to help lift his team to Games 6 and 7 wins to stave off KG's C's, but don't think the lesson didn't sink in to the incumbents on this otherwise young squad.
After all, Boston still has a Top 5 D.
And Boston still has KG, who last year ranked fourth in playoff plus-minus (+138 in 20 games), behind only LeBron James (+199 in 23 games), Dwyane Wade (+183 in 23 games) and fellow 36-year-old center Tim Duncan (+139 in 14 games).
When you remain one of the game's five best postseason players, we'll never count your team out until they are officially out.
Who woulda thunk the Rajon Rondo injury would breathe new life into Boston's season? With Rondo on the floor, Boston is a -1.3 net rating; with Rondo off and his replacements on a roll, the Celtics are a +2.1 per 100 possessions. Many have emerged when called upon, from the guards--or shall we call them lifeguards--Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford to Jeff Green, who had his shot and delivered when KG was sidelined to even Shavlik Randolph, who stepped up when he got his opportunity. It really is amazing--but not surprising--that a team of role players could roll to a 20-14 record after a 20-24 start when their All-Star point guard went down with a probable season-ending injury. It really is a testament to the leadership and skill-set of Garnett and Paul Pierce that Boston is even in the playoffs. When those two vets were on the floor this season, Boston was able to become a +3.3 team in 1427 minutes together and a number that grew to +7.5 in 373 minutes together when the two were paired with forward Jeff Green. Granted, they are an unproven bunch as a 5-man unit this season, with no quintet on the team logging more than the 245 minutes pulled by Boston's main unit of Bradley, Lee, Pierce, Bass and KG, who have a +2.4 net rating. But if you are looking for a quintet that is potentially dangerous, it is that squad with KG, Green, Pierce and whatever guards are feeling it, offensively and more important, defensively.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The 5,000 Minute Rule says most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship, and unfortunately, only two active Celtics meet The 5G Criteria: Pierce, who has logged 45,439 minutes with the Celtics, and Garnett, who has 15,033 minutes. Rondo, who is likely out for the 2013 NBA Playoffs, has 19,189 minutes. And I should mention Bass, who at 4607, has a shot to cross the 5,000 threshold.
LORD OF THE RINGS
The only members remaining from the Boston's 2008 NBA championship team are Coach Doc Rivers and Celtics Garnett, Pierce and the injured Rondo. Jason Terry, who won his ring with the Dallas Mavericks' 2011 NBA championship squad, is the only other player on this team with title-winning experience.
Hollinger Playoff Odds say Boston has a 0.9 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.2 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Celtics have a 1 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.1 percent chance to win the title.
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C KEVIN GARNETT: 66 games, 29.9 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 19.1 PER, +2.9 Net, +4.3 On/Off
C Chris Wilcox: 57 games, 13.7 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 15.3 PER, -0.9 Net, -2.2 On/Off
C Fab Melo (injured): 5 games, 3.8 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 0.2 rpg, 9.1 PER, -2.9 Net, -3.7 On/Off
PF BRANDON BASS: 77 games, 27.6 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 12.1 PER, -1.7 Net, -5.8 On/Off
PF Shavlik Randolph: 12 games, 13.1 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 18.2 PER, +5.5 Net, +5.4 On/Off
PF D.J. White: 8 games, 6.1 mpg, 2.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 18.3 PER, +18.3 Net, +18.2 On/Off
PF Jared Sullinger (injured): 45 games, 19.8 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 13.5 PER, +3.7 Net, +3.8 On/Off
SF PAUL PIERCE: 74 games, 33.8 mpg, 18.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 19.0 PER, +3.4 Net, +8.0 On/Off
SF Jeff Green: 77 games, 27.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 15.0 PER, +0.4 Net, -0.9 On/Off
SG COURTNEY LEE: 74 games, 24.6 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 11.3 PER, -0.4 Net, -2.3 On/Off
SG Jordan Crawford: 66 games, 24.1 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg, 13.4 PER, +0.9 Net,-3.4 On/Off
SG Terrence Williams: 20 games, 12.4 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 10.9 PER, -0.1 Net,-0.9 On/Off
PG AVERY BRADLEY: 46 games, 29.1 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 2.1 apg, 8.8 PER, Net, On/Off
PG Jason Terry: 77 games, 26.9 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.5 apg, 13.1 PER, +0.7 Net, -0.3 On/Off
PG Rajon Rondo (injured): 38 games, 37.4 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 11.1 apg, 18.1 PER, -1.3 Net, -3.4 On/Off
2011-12 GONE CELTICS (.591)
SG Ray Allen: 46 games, 34.0 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 14.8 PER, +3.1 Net, -0.5 On/Off
SG Mickael Pietrus: 42 games, 21.9 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 8.5 PER, +2.5 Net, -1.2 On/Off
PG Keyon Dooling: 46 games, 14.4 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 6.9 PER, -9.5 Net, -16.1 On/Off
C Ryan Hollins: 15 games, 10.7 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 6.8 PER, +3.3 Net,-5.1 On/Off
C Greg Stiemsma: 55 games, 13.9 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 13.6 PER, -0.9 Net, -5.6 On/Off
SG Marquis Daniels: 38 games, 12.7 mpg, 3.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 8.1 PER, +0.4 Net, -3.5 On/Off
SG Sasha Pavlovic: 45 games, 11.7 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 6.7 PER, +0.9 Net, -2.9 On/Off
PG E'Twaun Moore: 38 games, 8.7 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 8.8 PER, +6.0 Net, +2.9 On/Off
C Sean Williams: 11 games, 9.7 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 18.7 PER, +23.8 Net, +23.4 On/Off
* Celtics that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface