When Rajon Rondo shows feisty aggressiveness in a game’s first 12 minutes, it’s the rarest of treats. Watching it live, knowing you’re in for 48 minutes of “I could be witnessing history” basketball, is like heading to a golf course at 3 pm on a Sunday and not getting paired up with two people who married each other before the Vietnam War. It’s walking into a crowded Starbucks and snagging the last empty, comfy chair located right above an outlet. It’s winning a bet with your girlfriend and getting to see Chernobyl Diaries instead of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Moments like these are few and far between; little bits of time that deserve to be remembered—cherished, even—with proper acknowledgment.
Sometimes Rondo’s impressive stat stuffing performances look like subtle invasions. In some of them you sit there sopping it up, yet as the score rocks back and forth, and his shot attempts spread themselves further and further apart, the pervasive way Rondo debilitates an opponent can sometimes get overlooked. He has the athleticism, speed, and skill to take over any basketball game with his ability to score the ball, but his temperamental behavior tends to combat a self-created aura of dominance, leaving his teammates, coaches, owners, and fans to wonder why he doesn’t attack the basket more often—why he can’t recognize that sometimes the team needs him to use those gifts of his to score instead of distribute.
Wednesday night Rondo gave us his finest first quarter of the season—in arguably his team’s most important game of the year—scoring 13 points on eight shots; registering just one assist, showing that his mind was committed to one thing: scoring. When Greg Stiemsma subbed in for Garnett after the team’s current MVP picked up two quick fouls, Rondo scored Boston’s next nine points before setting up Pierce for an inspiring dunk. He understood he was the only Celtic carrying a flashlight. Rondo was there to lead the way. This article is my way of showing some appreciation.
After Philadelphia makes a basket it takes Rondo exactly five seconds to run down the court, spin through an unprepared defense, and answer with a finger roll off the glass.
Just watch this play one more time. NOBODY expects Rondo to do what he did. Not Jrue Holiday, who’s left desperately trying to poke at the ball as Rondo’s already blown by. Not Kevin Garnett, who’s setting an away screen for Pierce to pop out at the three-point line. Not Avery Bradley, who arrives at the basket off one of his famous baseline cuts after Rondo has already put the ball in the hoop. And not Brandon Bass, who barely appears on the screen before turning around and heading back the other way to play defense. This is Rondo at his “Best Point Guard in the World” level, leaving everyone else in awe.
Here, Rondo uses Pierce’s ball screen to catapult himself towards the basket. When this happens, Lavoy Allen and Andre Iguodala try to contain him, but Rondo punches first with one hell of a floater high off the glass. In Game 2, this was the situation where you’d see Rondo moving a bit slower, allowing himself to survey the defense, analyze the double team, and find a wide open shooter. Here he’s almost moving too fast, and Bass doesn’t even have enough time to set himself up for a weak side jumper.
Here’s a perfect example of Rondo oozing with enthusiasm to score. First he cuts to the free-throw line to make himself available for a pass from Garnett. Once there, he’s presented with two pretty great options: a wide open Avery Bradley in the corner, and a wide open Paul Pierce hovering near the left elbow. I’m sure Philadelphia’s defense expected him to make one of those possibilities a reality, but instead he tosses up a perfect floater that softly plops through the net.
After all that aggressiveness, and all those shots at the rim that made Philly shake its head and trot down to set up their offense, Rondo takes advantage of a team expecting him to shoot, and finds a wide open Mickael Pietrus in the corner. (Apparently, it had a frustrating effect on one of the building’s security guards.)
When Rondo chooses to score early in a game, the floor opens up even wider later on. When this happens, he’s the one offensive question this Celtics team can pose that every defense in the league is unable to answer. In Monday night’s loss, Rondo didn’t look for his own shot. He got to the rim and still looked to get others involved. It was strange to see. Rondo’s a smart guy, but sometimes he’s too smart for his own good. Sometimes he tends to forget that the objective of each possession is to put the ball in the basket. But not on Wednesday. Wednesday he forced us to notice.