The consistent contributions of the “old” Big Three were a key factor in the Boston Celtics' second win over the Miami Heat this season on Thursday. However, not lost in the performance was the continued excellence of Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo who led the team with 16 assists.
He has been posting gaudy assist totals all season, but this was one of his best performances, especially given the opponent. Prior to the game Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said, “Rondo is as a unique a point guard as has been in this league for a long time. You are talking about the best passer, arguably, in the game.”
He is the perfect fit as a point guard around three players as good as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Each of these players has been a star in this league and is arguably a Hall of Famer in his own right. With all the weapons around a point guard with Rondo’s vision and passing it creates a dynamic offense. This is what leads to Rondo’s spectacular assist totals.
The question that remains is whether he is bigger than the Big Three.
Rondo has set records with his assist totals to begin the season, passing players like John Stockton and Magic Johnson. This has created lofty expectations for him so far this season while currently averaging 14.0 assists per game. Even Rondo has noticed a difference in what people expect of him.
"It's sad,'' Rondo said. “People expect 15 assists every night. It's not going to happen. They say, I 'only' had 10 assists. Ten assists was great for me last year. It's great for me this year, too. The expectations, they're getting up there.''
The second assist leader in the NBA is Jason Kidd averaging 10.9 per game—four behind Rondo. This is what Rondo can do with all this talent around him, but he does more than just post stats.
Rondo may be the best and most important player but not because of the statistics he is putting up. His impact goes way beyond the box score. He also puts everyone on the Celtics including the Big Three in the positions they succeed the most.
Throughout the game the Heat were forced to put LeBron on him, which allowed Pierce to dominate on the block against smaller defenders like Dwayne Wade, Jerry Stackhouse and former teammate Eddie House. Pierce finished with 25 points on a spectacular 10-of-16 shooting.
We all know Paul Pierce likes to do his work somewhere around the wing and the elbow. Rondo gets him the ball there even though everyone knows where it’s going. Ray Allen is still one of the best spot-up shooters in the game, and Rondo was throwing no-look passes to him on the break, giving him great looks that allowed him to do what he did Thursday—shoot 7-of-9 from deep.
His defense against opposing teams’ point guards allows Kevin Garnett and other Celtics big men to be shot blockers instead of help defenders—one of the main reasons they are considered the best defensive team in the NBA.
If the Celtics can create mismatches and get the ball in the spots they want like this in the playoffs, there is no way the Heat can beat them in a seven-game series, and it will be because Rajon Rondo has risen above the Celtics Big Three.