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Sekou Smith

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Rajon Rondo's triple-double in Game 2 of The Finals was the stuff of postseason legend.
Nathaniel S Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Rondo cements place in Celtics' hierarchy with Game 2 play


Posted Jun 7 2010 10:36AM

How much more do you have to see?

What else does Rajon Rondo have to do to convince you to retire that Big Three stuff and recognize the Boston Celtics for who and what they are these days?

And that's Rondo's team.

If you don't believe it, just sit back and examine his latest masterpiece.

Rondo's all-court brilliance in the Celtics' Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday at Staples Center was as thorough as it was utterly spectacular. When it was over his 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists -- his fifth career playoff triple double and first in the Finals -- made it easy to recognize his sizeable contribution to the cause.

"Unbelievable." is how Celtics coach Doc Rivers described it after Rondo helped the Celtics even this series at 1-1. "He just did a lot of things, the blocked shots ... the steals. He's our quarterback, and he does a lot of stuff for us. He was special."

It's fitting that the series is shifting back to Boston for Games 3, 4 and 5. The fans there already have embraced the Rondo World Order and the fact that he (and not Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett) is the catalyst this time around.

"That's the key for us," Pierce said. "If we can get stops and get Rondo out in transition, that's big for us. He did everything -- he rebounded, passed, controlled the tempo and that's how we've got to play. Get the ball in his hands and let him make things happen."

Rondo's greatest impact on the game was in the adjustment the Lakers had to make to deal with him. Shifting Kobe Bryant off of Allen to slow down Rondo meant a smaller defender had the unenviable task of dealing with the best shooter in basketball. Allen drilled a Finals record eight 3-pointers, including seven straight in the first half.

"We were talking about it," Rivers said. "Teams have done it all year, so it's nothing new, putting a big guy on Rondo and a smaller guy on Ray. Every time we do that we feel like we can give Ray a shot, and that's what happened."

Garnett and Paul Pierce were a combined 4-for-16 from the floor, a subpar performance for each that will drive them to work on an antidote for whatever ails them. Rondo is no different. He went to his hotel room after the Celtics' Game 1 loss and began studying the film to see where he went wrong.

"Getting the loose balls," Rondo said of what he knew he had to change to give his team a chance to win Game 2. "I think that was the key for me personally, trying to track down all the long rebounds. Doing a great job of making them take tough shots and rebound the ball, but it's going to take a team effort to rebound the ball and beat those guys on the boards."

He did all that and more in Game 2, out-boarding three 7-footers in Garnett, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Allen described it best: "He was awesome. Thinking about passing the ball, like getting in the gaps, you know he's so athletic, he does so many different things. And that's something people probably don't realize. He's so unheralded when he gets in there getting rebounds because he's so athletic. One rebound, he went to the roof, it seemed like he went over all the bigs. But that does give us another dimension."

The biggest criticism of Rondo is that he is not a great shooter. But he is a showman of the highest order. You've seen the move, the one where he cuffs the ball and fakes the behind-the-back pass and then embarrasses the defender. He had a couple of those kinds of moves, including one where he stopped dead in the lane, faked Bynum into the air with his right hand, twirled and dropped in a layup.

He added a crafty strip-block from behind on Derek Fisher that triggered a fast break. He beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer. He closed strong, too. He drew Bryant's fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, nailed an elbow jumper late and picked an unsuspecting Bryant's pocket late for a steal that ended the Lakers' last-gasp effort at a comeback.

"He made the big shot," Rivers said. "He made the elbow shot. I'm thinking Mark Price is somewhere celebrating. [Rondo] took a million of those shots this summer, and he didn't hesitate, and that was my favorite play for him."

Rondo, for his part, already has his mind on Game 3 Tuesday in Boston.

"You know, one game could change the whole series," he said.

We know. One player can change a whole series, too.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and the author of NBA.com's Hang Time blog. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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