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After a tough, last second loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday a couple things are apparent for the Boston Celtics. First, they lack depth. Paul Pierce didn’t play versus the Knickerbockers because of a heel injury and it took an outstanding second half from Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Ray Allen to keep the Celtics afloat. The loss of Jeff Green for the season really hurts their bench and it’ll be tough for those guys to carry the scoring load an entire season against amid a tough Eastern Conference. Because of this, the veterans on this team will have to play more minutes during the season to keep Boston competitive enough to make the playoffs and grab a decent seeding.
Luckily, there is a shortened season because of the NBA lockout but teams do face the problem of playing more games in a shorter amount of time. Can the veterans hold up the whole season? Does fatigue rear its ugly head in the playoffs? Its time for Rondo, Boston’s youngest starter, to carry this team and he looks like he’s up for the challenge.
Rondo had an outstanding game on Sunday. He scored 31 points, dropped 13 dimes, had 5 steals, and was clearly the Celtics best player. Both Rondo and coach Doc Rivers knew that without Pierce he would have to step up.
“This is the Rondo we want,” Rivers said. Getting to the free-throw line. Taking the shots when they’re open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game. That’s the Rondo that we want. It was terrific.”
Rajon fits perfectly in Doc Rivers’ system. Within Rivers offense he wants an uptempo rhythm in which the point guard makes great decisions on the fast break, creates for other players, and runs plays well with a pass-first mentality. He had to change his game a little with Pierce out, though. Rondo, usually hesitant jump shooter, shot the ball with more confidence against the Knicks and helped fill the scoring void left by Pierce.
“I was just trying to get us into transition,” Rondo said. “Trying to get us to the line. Trying to get us some easy looks, get them in the penalty early. But it’s only one game. When P [Pierce] gets back, obviously, some of the shots will go to P. Whatever the team needs, whatever Doc wants me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”
Whatever he was doing on this afternoon was working, especially in the third quarter, when the Celtics overwhelmed the Knicks (35-17). Allen finally awakened. Bass was killing the Knicks, especially on the offensive glass.
Rondo has finally transitioned to the Celtics best player and it looks like their season’s success rest on the former Kentucky player’s shoulders now, more than ever.