The Celtics teach how to go undefeated without your star.

Rajon Rondo in pain

The Boston Celtics lost their best player to injury. Without Rajon Rondo, the future seemed bleak for Boston. Yet, without him, they’ve gone 4-0, including wins against both the Clippers and the Heat. Is there something to the notion that maybe Rondo is overrated? Not if we look into the games.

Play against really bad teams

NBA: Orlando Magic at Sacramento Kings

Two of the Celtics’ four wins are pretty easy to explain. They played both the Orlando Magic (14-33) and the Sacramento Kings (17-32). It’s not too surprising that the Celtics were still able to put up wins at home against two terrible teams.

Get rid of your opponents best players

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul

The Celtics played both the Heat and the Clippers. These teams have the league’s best point guard — Chris Paul— and one of the league’s top shooting guards — Dwyane Wade. Except, when playing the Celtics, the Clippers had to make due without Chris Paul.

The Heat are a different story. Dwyane Wade puts up a +2.0 PoP. What this means is on a nightly basis Wade is giving his team a two point edge. How well did Wade play against the Celtics? He put up a -10.5 PoP game. For perspective, the worst player in the league with major minutes this season is Kevin Seraphin. On a nightly basis he’s at -4.0 PoP. Wade went from playing like a top player in the league to playing almost three times as poorly as the worst player in the league! And even doing this, the Celtics were only able to win in double over time.

Shoot really well


Against the Clippers the Celtics actually shot really well from three. They went 61% from beyond the arc on 18 threes. It should be noted that the Celtics have shot around 33% from beyond the arc this season. Even their “best” shooter Leandro Barbosa is shooting only 38% from beyond the arc.

The why matters

As I notice often in sports, people are quick to respond to results. It is always important to ask why though. Why have the Celtics been winning with out Rondo? Well if we were trying to distill it into useful advice, what we’d have is:

  • Play weak opponents!
  • Take out one of your opponents best players!
  • Better yet, replace one of your opponents best players with the worst player in the league!
  • Shoot 20% better than the league’s best team (currently the Warriors) from beyond the arc!

I’m not sure how useful any of that is. And as we’ve noted, even doing this, the Celtics were only able to barely beat the Heat and Clippers. Can the Celtics keep beating weak teams? Sure. I wouldn’t crown them contenders just yet.



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