Celtics, Bulls plug along without stars

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Regardless of which teams wins the tip-off tonight at the TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN), their respective superstar point guards won’t be there to dribble the ball up.

Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Chicago’s Derrick Rose are both victims of ACL tears, the latter of which came towards the end of the Bulls’ 2011-12 season.

While Rose is inching closer to recovery – the hope is that he plays by the end of the regular season – we already know that Rondo won’t be back this year.

So, without their two best players, we’re talking about two teams fighting for ping pong balls in the NBA lottery, right? Wrong. The Bulls are actually living, playing proof that a team can “make due” without its star. They head into tonight’s game with a 30-21 record, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference.

How is this possible? Well, losing Rose didn’t automatically mean losing that production. It enabled players like Luol Deng (16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (11.8 points, 11.3 rebounds) to step up in his absence. Both, not coincidentally, were elected to this weekend’s All-Star game in Houston. Carlos Boozer (15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Nate Robinson (12.1 points, 4.2 assists) are two others who have answered the call. Second-year forward Jimmy Butler has broke out as well.

We seem to be seeing a similar trend here in Boston. While the loss of Rondo has dramatically changed the way the Celtics play, it hasn’t changed it for the worst – at least not yet. Boston is 7-1 since Rondo’s last game, a loss in Atlanta. Jason Terry has never played better in a Celtics uniform. Ditto for Jeff Green. Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley form a better 1-2 front court on the defensive side of things.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are showcasing the leadership qualities that clearly never left them.

Boston has lost Jared Sullinger and now Leandro Barbosa too. The hits just keep on coming, but we’ve yet to see them waive the white flag.

They can look at a team like Chicago for inspiration in that regard, but come NBA postseason it’ll be the Bulls looking back at them with their superstar guard.

Can Boston advance without theirs?


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