It wasn’t a pretty game, but somebody had to win it.
“I didn’t plan on going home tomorrow,” Rondo said after the game.
He ensured his season would live for at least another week while also moving up the NBA history ladder.
With his ninth playoff triple-double, Rondo now ties Wilt Chamberlain for fourth all time, behind Magic Johnson’s 30, Jason Kidd’s 11 and Larry Bird’s 10.
That’s pretty impressive company for a 26-year-old point guard.
Even more importantly than the triple-double, though, was that he found his game when his team needed it most. In the fourth quarter of an ugly game where both teams were struggling to score the basketball, Rondo found his rhythm.
After Paul Pierce fouled out with four minutes remaining, Rondo took over, scoring 11 points to keep the Celtics in control. Perfect from the floor with Pierce on the bench, he scored on a driving layup, a long two and an unexpected three-pointer to stretch the Celtics lead to 10 with just over two minutes remaining.
Perhaps even more impressive were the four free throws he hit in the final minutes.
Somehow, he keeps managing to come through for his team when they need a hero. Even when the numbers say that the outcome should be different, Rondo finds a way to make it happen.
Tonight it was scoring. Next time it could be defense, rebounding, a correct play call. Whatever it is, chances are he recognizes it before anyone has to tell him.
After the game, he spoke about Boston’s offense and his comfort level with his teammates in crunch time.
“I take pride in knowing Doc’s system,” Rondo said. “I’ve been here six years. Sometimes I think I know it better than him.”
The final part of that quote said with an ever-so-slight smile, it’s clear that Rondo doesn’t take the trust he’s been given lightly. When he makes the wrong call, or turns the ball over, it stays with him. His mistakes and miscues eat away at him until his teammates and coaching staff remind him to stay in the moment and make it up on the next possession.
He’d say that he felt responsible for Pierce fouling out since two of the fouls Pierce was called for came as a result of having to get back defensively after he turned the ball over.
With that in his mind, it became his mission to make it up to his team and he pulled through for them once again.
While Rondo was brilliant when it mattered, the Celtics will head to Miami needing to figure out where to go next. Rondo can be brilliant and KG can be dominant, but who is going to stop LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?
Without Avery Bradley the rest of the way through and with Allen’s performance a complete wild card thanks to bone spurs in his ankle, the Celtics will need big performances out of their entire roster.
Even without Bosh, the athleticism and energy of the Heat will test everything that Boston has. After a season of saying they’re not old, the Celtics will have to find a way to do what seems to be unthinkable: silence father time while simultaneously outsmarting the Heat.