Once upon a time, Rajon Rondo was a premier point guard. And he looked that way against the Celtics.
The Chicago Bulls took a 2-0 lead on the Boston Celtics with their victory Tuesday night, and Rondo was, arguably, the best player on the floor. In 40 minutes of action, he handed out 14 assists, dropped 11 points, swiped five steals and finished just one rebound shy of a triple-double. We haven’t seen him play like that in a long, long time. And that assertiveness was deflating to his former team.
Rondo made the playoffs with the Dallas Mavericks two seasons ago, but issues between him and the team led to him being a non-factor. Before that, during his years with the Celtics, there were few players you’d want facilitating for your team ahead of Rondo. From 2008-12, Rondo was the NBA’s playoff leader in total assists four of the five years and the steals leader in three of the five. It helped that Boston had long runs, but great teams excel in the postseason.
Also Read: Bobby Portis Is Key For a Bulls’ Upset
During that same span, he averaged 9.2 helpers a night, trailing only Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, per Basketball Reference. Here’s the kicker, Rondo played more games than the three of them — combined (92 to 82).
It was his third time recording at least 10 points, 10 assists, five steals and five rebounds in a playoff game, and that ties Michael Jordan for the most since 1984. When Rondo fills the stat sheet like that, it strains Boston even more because he becomes a matchup nightmare. Isaiah Thomas had issues guarding him. They could switch Bradley, but who guards Dwyane Wade? The same problem arises with Marcus Smart and Thomas.
Brad Stevens actually experimented with that idea. And it turns out that Paul Zipser is a mismatch for 5-9 Thomas — who’da thunk it?!
If Rondo continues logging minutes like this, 67 through two games, the Celtics need to do one of two things — capitalize when he’s off or make his life difficult. The latter is much easier since Rondo by himself isn’t capable of beating the Celtics. Even when Jimmy Butler and Wade get involved, the Celtics are still able to stay competitive. However, once Rondo starts seeking out the role players, it’s all downhill.
Zipser, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez are all solid, but if they’re going for 13-20 points each, it’s a problem. Conversely, Boston needs others to take notes and step up. Al Horford needs to look for his shot more; Bradley should be looking for more mid-range attempts.
Rondo was the Garden’s silencer. Now that the series shifts back to Chicago, losing homecourt advantage could prove costly for the Celtics.
Start a conversation with me on Twitter