Rajon Rondo might not be part of the “Big Three;” we might not even know the correct pronunciation of his name (is it Raw -jon ? Or Ray-jon ?), but he is the power behind this Boston Celtics team.
Rondo’s performance Sunday was nothing short of stellar as he engineered Boston’s 97-87 victory. His stat line was flashy—29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists—but watching Rondo impose his will on the game was even more impressive.
It seemed as though Rondo was everywhere at once. On one end of the court he was creating havoc on defense (he ended the game with two steals) and on the other he sliced through the Cavs on his way to the basket.
After Cleveland jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, Rondo was able to get the Celtics in a rhythm where they could be effective on offense and defense. One of Rondo’s early moments of brilliance came on a back door play where Rondo signaled to Garnett under the hoop.
Garnett cut back behind Shaquille O’Neal, leaving himself wide open for a lob pass from Rondo that turned into an easy two points.
But perhaps the best showcase of Rondo’s skill and awareness of the game came on a fast break play with the game tied 70-70 in the third quarter.
Rondo had the ball and was in position to drive and finish with a layup. He knew where he was on the court, but more importantly he knew where his defender, LeBron James, was, and where his teammate, Tony Allen, was.
Rondo could have taken the shot himself, but we’ve all seen James’s signature “chase down” blocks. Had Rondo gone to the basket, his shot most likely would have been swatted away.
Instead, Rondo faked the layup and then made a behind-the-back, no-look pass to Tony Allen. With one pass, he neutralized James and earned his team another easy bucket.
For a guy who isn’t considered a superstar on the Celtics, Rondo sure played like one on Sunday.
This is good news for the Celtics going forward. The team’s biggest problem is age and a lack of speed. Rondo gives Boston both youth and agility.
On a team with three big names, Rondo has proven he can take over and run the offense. He shows awareness and an understanding of the game as it happens. That is a rare quality and it will benefit the Celtics in the future, especially as Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce continue to age.