Rondo is the X-factor for the Celtics. He is the individual that makes them dangerous when they play Miami. The level of his play determines the quality of the game for the Celtics, making them either look like a true contender or a pretender.
With Rondo not at his best, the Celtics have a hard time putting up a serious fight against the Heat. Even when Rondo plays fairly well, as he did in Game 2, the Celtics can look overmatched. Rondo alone can't beat the Heat, but a subpar Rondo spells disaster for Boston.
Here are the five things that give Rondo a large hand in the outcome of games played between the Celtics and Heat.
Mario Chalmers is an above-average young guard in the league. Mike Bibby is a serviceable veteran point guard.
Both players are in over their heads when matched up with the Celtics guard. Rondo is much quicker than both Chalmers and Bibby. His ability to spread the floor and make the Celtics offense click is hard for anyone to slow.
The Heat are considered weakest at point guard and center, the only two positions at which they don't have an All-Star playing. They have been stagnant at times in their half-court offense, something which is usually at the fault of the point guard. Although LeBron James and Dwyane Wade usually handle the ball, neither Chalmers nor Bibby have been shooting the ball all too well.
Also, both players can be considered defensive liabilities. Bibby is clearly showing signs of his age, and Chalmers has never been a well-respected defender.
Rondo has the best mismatch on the court, and he needs to exploit it for the Celtics to come out on top.
Rajon Rondo is the engine for the Celtics.
When the stars aligned in Miami, they quickly became known as "The Big Three." The reason that was odd is because Boston already had a trio of their own that was sometimes referred to by the same name. As Rondo began to emerge, so did the new name: "The Big Four."
Rondo runs the offense, distributing the ball effectively to the three scoring sources. If he is shooting the ball well, it's hard to find a player that's more valuable at point guard. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Rondo struggles with his jump shot more often than not.
Still, Rondo is incredible at drawing defenders to him by taking the ball to the hoop. His ability to finish around the rim is incredible, so defenders are forced to slide over and help.
That's when Rondo makes the opposition pay.
Despite his small stature, Rondo has arguably the biggest heart on the court.
His passion for the game will never be questioned. He's someone that plays with his heart on his sleeve, showing every bit of emotion. If a fan that just tuned in to a game wants to know the direction it's taking, they can just observe Rondo's expressions.
During the regular season, Rondo took on the seemingly impossible task (at least for him) of guarding LeBron. Rondo initiated contact outside the three-point line, making LeBron uncomfortable and taking him out of his element.
In the Celtics' Game 3 win, Rondo was downed with a gruesomely dislocated elbow. He returned later, sparking the Celtics. Playing through injuries gives the rest of your team the knowledge that nothing matters more than the game.
Rondo's repeated instances of bravery and outright devotion make him a team leader at only age 25.
The other three giant contributors in Boston have a collective 41 seasons of NBA basketball on their legs.
Rondo is still relatively new to the league, giving him the role of Energizer Bunny for the Celtics. No player is expected to exert more energy each night than Rondo. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all have gas tanks nearing empty. Rondo, however, needs to be as close to full at all times.
Rondo was quoted on NBA.com as saying his efforts were concentrated on the defensive end after the injury to his left elbow.
"I thought I could try to change the game's momentum by getting to the ball defensively [in the fourth quarter]," said Rondo. "I only need two legs for that."
Rondo knows his role on the Celtics, and he seems to love it.
The Miami Heat love to run the floor.
The Heat are at their absolute best in transition, where their athleticism is on full display. However, the Celtics are much better with half-court offense.
To beat the Heat, the Celtics need to fight fire with fire. They need to tire out the Heat running the floor on their own, hopefully causing the Heat to slow the ball down on offense.
LeBron and Wade excel at getting back on defense, meaning they will always try to run back and quell the offensive attack. If the Celtics want to force the Heat stars to go back and forth, Rondo needs to be set to run the break. The Celtics have to put in players like Delonte West and Jeff Green to give Rondo some younger guys to run with.
If the Celtics can use their depth to tire out the Heat starters, they can attack the Heat's biggest weakness: their depth. The Heat had to free up so much space to land Chris Bosh and LeBron.
Losing so many players puts more stress on the best, and the Heat's elite need to be challenged to play 40 solid minutes.
What else does Rondo provide to the Celtics that I didn't mention? Comment and add to the list.