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Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo's Basketball I.Q. Make the Boston Celtics a Contender

BOSTON - JUNE 08:  Head coach Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics look on in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Three of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 8, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Covey C. MasonContributor IDecember 13, 2016

In Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics showed resiliency fighting back from a double-digit, fourth quarter deficit. But it was Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo’s mastery of the game that took the Celtics past the 76ers in the opening game of the second round—and it’s what will take the Celtics to the NBA Championship. 

The biggest issue for Boston is health—no way around it.

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are both gutting through their health issues, and the Celtics are one major injury away from being an easy out, even against the eighth-seeded 76ers.

But if they can stay healthy—watch out.

Rajon Rondo’s command over the offense was on full display Saturday night. After a slow start, Rondo orchestrated a masterpiece with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists.  And those 17 assists came with the Celtics shooting a miserable 30 percent in the first quarter.

 

Rondo’s Place in History

We’ve come to take Rondo’s triple-doubles for granted. And with his often criticized demeanor on (and off) the court, we may overlook how amazing of a player the Boston Celtics have playing for them. 

It may be because his flaws—an inconsistent mid-range jump shot, poor foul shooting, a moody demeanor—are so apparent when we watch him play. But Rondo is truly doing something amazing with the number of triple-doubles he’s accrued in his playoff career.

BOSTON, MA - MAY 12:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics avoids Evan Turner #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the final seconds of the of Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massa
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According to sportscity.com, Rajon Rondo just passed LeBron James with eight postseason triple-doubles. He is tied with Oscar Robertson and trails only Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain.

This is some impressive company to be in.

It just goes to show how much of a role Rondo plays in the Celtics’ success. He’s the quarterback, the conductor and the puppeteer of the offense show. Rondo makes this team run.

But Doc Rivers—with his elite game-calling ability—is the one behind the curtain. 

 

The Final Play of the Game

It was a minor change; I didn’t notice until the play was over.

But it is usually Rondo who inbounds the ball when the opposing team is planning to foul. That way, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (all good foul shooters) are all on the floor, and Rondo, a 60 percent free throw shooter this season, according to basketball-reference.com, is able to stay out of the picture.

But with second to go in the game, it was Pierce, not Rondo, who was inbounding the ball. It was a minor change, and one that the 76ers didn’t seem to take notice of—but it made all the difference.

With the 76ers defending the Celtics tightly bunched in the paint, Rajon Rondo, probably the fastest person on the court, takes off into the open back court and dribbles out the remaining moments of the game.

This is where the Celtics have another huge advantage: Doc Rivers.

He was masterful throughout the season, dealing with injuries and trade rumors, and keeping this team focused and on track to be one of the best teams in the second half of the season.

But it was his tactical brilliance that was on full display to close out Philadelphia in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.

If Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can stay healthy…and if Rajon Rondo can keep his cool and continue to knock down those mid-range jumpshots…and if Kevin Garnett can keep turning back the clock and continue playing like he’s 25, not 35…well, that’s a lot of ifs.

But with Doc Rivers manning the clipboard and Rajon Rondo running the point, I’ll take this Celtics team against anyone in the league.

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