Monday night in Chicago the rest of the NBA was put on alert. Rajon Rondo is playing like one of the best players in the league, and will have a legitimate shot at winning the MVP this year if he keeps playing like he did against the Bulls. So take note, NBA players. When you play the Boston Celtics, during the 48 minutes you are on the floor, you are living in Rondo's World.
The Celtics point guard put on a dominant performance on Monday night. Rondo scored 20 points on 10-16 shooting, with 10 assists, nine rebounds, and five steals. Rondo barely kept his double-digit streak alive, but could have easily had 17 assists if teammates made some of the open jumpers he got them. (I particularly remember one stretch halfway through the fourth quarter where Kevin Garnett missed four open jump shots.)
|Phew! Nate Robinson pulled his hand away just in time to let Rajon Rondo pass for the layup.|
Early on in the game, with Bulls reserve and former teammate Nate Robinson guarding him, Rondo went to the rim at will, scoring eight points in the first quarter, three of the buckets coming on layups. Rondo wasn't in scoring mode for the entire game. The Celtics clearly were focused on ball movement, and while Rondo controlled the flow of the offense, the Celtics were able to up 33 and 25 points in the first two quarters against arguably the best defense in the league. With Rondo running the sets the Celtics were making the extra pass which led to open jump shots, and the team field goal percentage hovered around 60% for most of the game.
Rondo wasn't just dominating the game on the offensive end on Monday. When the Bulls started making their come back in the second half, Rondo grabbed three of his five steals in the game, keeping Chicago at arm's reach and halting the Bulls' run.
The Celtics were out-rebounded by the Bulls 40-34, but were it not for Rondo's work on the boards the discrepancy would have been even greater, and may have cost the Celtics the game. Rondo had team high nine rebounds in the game. No other Celtics had more than six. All four of the Bulls guards that played in the game combined for nine rebounds.
In the fourth quarter, when the game became tight Rondo switched from offensive overseer, to focused facilitator. From 10:13 in the fourth until 4:54 remaining in the game, the Celtics went scoreless and the Bulls cut the deficit from 11 to three. Rondo and KG worked the pick and pop and Garnett missed four open jump shots. As the Celtics went cold, the Bulls cut the lead to the three on a Joakim Noah dunk with 3:33 left. Rondo calmly waited at the top of the key and hit Jason Terry for a 3-pointer. Thirty seconds later, after a timeout and the Bulls added a free throw, Rondo came off a pick from Paul Pierce into the lane and lofted an alley oop to Kevin Garnett. With 49.5 seconds left and the Bulls within two points, Rondo again used a Pierce pick to get into the lane and gave another oop to KG. Finally, up four with 25 seconds left, Rondo fired a laser to the baseline and hit a wide open Brandon Bass for a dunk that would put Chicago away for good. Unlike other years, when Rondo was afraid to handle the ball late in games, when the game was on the line the Celtics point guard dismantled the best defense in the NBA with cold-blooded execution. Rondo racked up four assists in the final three and a half minutes of play to seal an important road win for Boston.
It was an MVP performance. It was the type we've seen from Rondo from time to time over the years, and the type we may see a lot more of this season now that this team is unquestionably in his hands. It was another reminder that we are all just renting space here...because it's Rondo's world.
e-mail me here.