Posted Jan 30 2011 9:23PM
LOS ANGELES -- Find Rondo, Doc Rivers implored his Celtics timeout after timeout.
They had lost to the Suns with an offensive no-show a couple days earlier; they had lost to the Wizards three games before that; and now, on Sunday afternoon in an amped Staples Center, the Lakers threatened.
So find Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics made stops in the second half and found the point guard who would steer them to victory, they found very impressive moments by shooting 60.3 percent overall and limiting L.A. to 39.5 the final two quarters, and they left with a bloody 109-96 win. Most of all, though, they found this clinic of a game -- this sensational game, this absolutely perfect game -- from the same Rondo who by all statistical measure had only one good half.
Rondo before intermission: one assist, no turnovers, two makes in five shots, four points, and the Lakers led 54-50.
Rondo after: 15 assists, three turnovers, three makes in four attempts, six points, and the Celtics outscored the hosts 59-42 to win.
"But I thought he played great in the first half," Rivers said.
And everyone knew he played great in the second half. Of all the special Rondo moments in a growing list of accomplishments, a Sunday matinee in January was a highlight and a telling statement for any time. Rondo may always be remembered as the guy that crashed the Big Three party of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but Rivers directed the ball into Rondo's hands in the biggest stretch of the biggest of regular-season games.
"I told Rondo in front of the team I thought it was one of his best games of the year in the fact that I thought he called an absolutely perfect game," said the coach who would know, having himself had a long career as a point guard. "He's our pitcher and I thought he just called a sensational game. Coming out of timeouts, he made sure guys were in their spots. The biggest change we made [in the second half] was we got the ball to him on misses instead of outletting it to other guys. We just kept saying it every timeout. 'Find Rondo. Stop coming back to the ball. Run out and he'll find you. Just trust that.' And I thought Rondo tonight played with a great speed. When he plays with speed, he has power, and I thought he did that tonight."
Pierce had 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
Garnett had 18 points on nine-of-12 shooting, along with 13 rebounds, in just 32 minutes.
Allen had 21 points on eight-of-12 shooting.
Nate Robinson and Glen Davis did their Shrek and Donkey thing from the Finals again, Robinson contributing 11 points in 14 minutes off the bench and Davis 13 points in 23 minutes that became especially meaningful with Shaquille O'Neal kept to 13 minutes by foul trouble and Garnett sent to the locker room in the second quarter to repair a deep cut over his left forehead caused by an inadvertent Pau Gasol swipe at a loose ball.
He had the ball.
That tempo was the difference. Not the U2 beat, when blood from the cut rolled down Garnett's face and a snarky game-ops staffer pumped Sunday Bloody Sunday over the loudspeakers, and not the rapid-fire heart thumping of the Lakers faithful now audible without a public-address system.
"We got stops," Rondo said. "They scored, I think, 54 points in the first half. Everything was a made basket or they were going to the free throw line, so it was hard to run and create the tempo taking the ball out of bounds every time with a made basket or a free throw.
"We knew we could run on L.A. Obviously Phoenix, they're a running team, so we can't out-run those guys. But L.A, we figured given the personnel that we have, we can out-run them."
The Celtics hit from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, but, really, they outscored the Lakers 32-24 the final period, shooting 70 percent in the process, because the precision offense created easy baskets. L.A. was hurt inside even though Garnett and Davis were the only Boston bigs to play more than five minutes.
Robinson called it "controlled chaos," the way he and Rondo can operate as two small guards and cause "havoc." Pierce said Rondo "kept them off balance." Rivers used words like "perfect" and "sensational." It was one of those days that sent a lot of people in search of the right description, when the explanation was so simple.
They found Rondo.
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