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Assist needed from Rondo

Strong effort by guard would benefit Celtics

By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / May 26, 2012
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Rajon Rondo is full of surprises.

In his line of work, this unpredictable quality is sometimes good, sometimes bad. The good: It gives his point guard play a mad-genius edge, the kind that produces fake behind-the-back passes and prompts “M-V-P’’ chants at TD Garden. With the ball in his hands, he teases opponents and mesmerizes fans. The bad: An unpredictable personality manifests in maddeningly inconsistent play. He disappears sometimes rather than dominates with a style that seemingly yields triple-doubles at will.

Game 6 in Philadelphia is the most recent example of Rondo gone awry, a 9-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist effort that ranks as substandard for the point guard who’s averaging 13.5 points, 13.2 assists, and 7.0 rebounds in the second-round series. His 10 missed shots weren’t the most eye-catching number Wednesday night, but rather it was six assists with just one coming before the final minute of the first half. Boston finished Game 6 with a team total of 14 assists.

The 76ers’ defense succeeded in clogging up the paint and cutting off the seams, coach Doc Rivers said, thereby increasing the degree of difficulty for Rondo and the Celtics’ offense.

Prior to Game 6, 76ers coach Doug Collins pointed out how Rondo had had a role in 50 percent of the points Boston scored. So, fresh from yet another example of how Rondo’s offense sets the tone for the entire team, good and bad, the point guard was asked Friday what he thought of the as-he-goes-the-team-goes theory.

Rondo did not bristle at the question. Instead, somewhat surprisingly, he initially employed deadpan sarcasm.

“Oh, man, it’s a lot of pressure,’’ said Rondo, as the reporters crowded around him laughed.

Then he added more seriously: “I’ve heard it before. I don’t know if it’s true. We’re a team. We’re one of the few teams in the NBA that all five guys contribute. We’re not just a one- or two-man show. We play great as a team. If I’ve got it going, then it’s usually someone else in another minute. We’re a great team.’’

Usually, Rondo follows a poor game with a triple-double performance or close to it. And with the grand Game 7 stage Saturday night, there is the sense that Rondo may produce the kind of performance that lands multiple how’d-he-do-that videos on YouTube. Listening to Rondo, there is also the sense that he very much wants to step on the parquet with the right mind-set, to foster great team play not force it.

When asked for the key to Game 7, Rondo answered with the obvious, “Ball movement.’’

“The ball stuck [in Game 6],’’ said Rondo. “Everyone tried to make the home run plays. We’ve got to continue to try to make sacrifices for each other and continue to make plays for each other.’’

Rondo also spoke of the importance of composure, of not approaching Game 7 with anger after squandering a chance to close out the series in Game 6, of getting back to basics to win. It seems like Rondo’s head is already in the game. And that may translate to some pleasant surprises.

“We haven’t got it done yet, but we will [Saturday],’’ said Rondo. “It’s a mind-set, a focus. We’re going to make sacrifices. We’re going to do everything, do all the intangibles, make plays.’’

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.

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