BOSTON – In his homecoming to the TD Garden Friday night, Rajon Rondo reminded the Boston Celtics exactly what they’re missing out after opting to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks last month.
The point guard scored a season-high 29 points against his former teammates, helping the Mavericks cruise to a 119-101 blowout win over the Celtics.
“I’m emotionally tired, I’m physically tired, I’m drained right now,” Rondo said after the game. “I called a couple timeouts, well, not timeouts, but I called a couple subs for myself because it was a lot tonight. That was a tough game to get through, but my teammates came through for me and we got the win.”
The visitors led by as many as 28 points in the victory, an advantage they built early in the game thanks to the stellar play of Boston’s former captain, who also grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists.
The Celtics also showed a tribute video at the end of the first quarter that resulted in the entire TD Garden giving Rondo a lengthy standing ovation to honor his eight-plus seasons in green.
“I mean, it’s what I expected,” Rondo said. “Nothing less than what I was expecting. It’s a class organization, classy fans, and a lot of respect for me and vice versa. So I didn’t expect anything less and that’s just what it is.”
Unlike his recent days in Boston, Rondo wasn’t wreaking havoc with his passing ability in his stellar performance. Instead, it was his red-hot shooting that proved to be a game-changer.
Rondo scored the first eight points of the game for his new team and hit his first seven shots from the field. Overall, Rondo scored 15 of the Mavericks’ 31 points in the first quarter, as his new team built a double-digit lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the evening.
Despite taking a season-high 19 field goal attempts, Rondo was insistent he was not seeking out his shot.
“I just shot the ball when I was open,” Rondo declared. “At the start of the game, a couple possessions they doubled Dirk (Nowitzki) and I was open. Monta (Ellis) found me and I got the first one. I got in an easy rhythm by getting a couple layups early, and then the three-ball went up for me as well.”
Jared Sullinger indicated that it was the Celtics’ game plan to give Rondo those open looks that he had been missing for much of the season.
“We pretty much baited him to shoot and wanted him to shoot,” Sullinger admitted. “He was knocking them down tonight.”
Rondo’s final shooting line was 12-of-19 from the field, and a career-high five 3-point field goals.
“I’ll be getting these same looks my entire career,” Rondo said. “Coach Carlisle told me from day one, he needs me to be a lot more aggressive and I think I got a lot more field goal attempts in these last five or six games than I have all year for the most part, so I’m just trying to stay aggressive.”
That aggressiveness is paying off. Dallas has won four straight games and are 5-2 overall since acquiring Rondo. After watching him up close, Rondo’s new teammates are anxious to see what heights they can reach with their motivated point guard.
“He’s a big game player. He’s amazing,” Tyson Chandler said. “I was already impressed by his basketball IQ and knew he was a big game player from witnessing him outside. But to come into a situation like this where you spent your entire career and had incredible success I know it had to be very emotional, but he came incredibly locked in. It shows the type of player he is, he lives for moments like this.”
After Friday night, Celtics’ fans will have to watch those moments from afar in the years to come.