Celtics Face Life Without Rondo in Game 2

VP, Digital Media

ATLANTA – The NBA has suspended Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo for one game due to the contact he made with referee Marc Davis in the final minute of Sunday night’s Game 1.

Rondo had been trailing behind Davis after the referee whistled him for his first technical foul. When Davis stopped, Rondo continued and made contact with Davis’ back, drawing a second technical and immediate ejection. That limited contact was enough to cost Rondo an appearance in Game 2.

Sadly for Boston, the team already wrapped up Monday’s practice before it heard from the league regarding the suspension. Their on-floor preparation without Rondo will be limited to tomorrow morning’s shooraround at Georgia Tech. That’s not a lot of time to prepare for filling a role as gigantic as Rondo’s.

Rondo, who is fresh off of securing the first NBA assist title of his career, is the league’s best passer. He is the floor general who commands Boston’s offense. He is the player who puts pressure on defenses with his relentless penetration and then finds the open man. Rondo is the only player on Boston’s team who played well from start to finish in Game 1.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is the straw the stirs the Celtics' drink, but the team will have to press on without him Tuesday night in Atlanta after the NBA suspended him.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty

And now he’s out.

But don’t be fooled – that doesn’t mean the Celtics are also out.

Boston has been here before. This season has been filled with trials and tribulations. The Celtics have withstood every blow and become a better team as a result.

This roster is built around strong-minded veterans. It starts with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and continues all the way down the line to players like Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels.

The odds may against the Celtics in Game 2, but those veterans won’t look at it that way.

“I think if any team is equipped to deal with a situation like that it’s us,” said Dooling, who’s likely to see a spike in playing time with Rondo unavailable. “We’re battle-tested. We’re deep. We’ve got a veteran bunch, so it will just be another challenge for us, but we’ve overcome a lot of challenges this year.”

This battle-tested and deep team will need some help from everyone in order to overcome this challenge. The starters, who will likely be joined by Mickael Pietrus and see Avery Bradley slide over to the point, will be important, as always. The reserves, however, will now take on an increased role.

Dooling, the veteran leader of the bench, will likely be joined by Sasha Pavlovic, E’Twaun Moore and Marquis Daniels in splitting up the minutes that Rondo will leave on the table. Three of those four players are veterans who have delivered when their name has been called on this season. Moore, a rookie guard who did not play in Game 1, also possesses the type of moxie needed to thrive in a situation like this.

It remains to be seen how Rivers will divvy up the minutes between those players, but Rivers isn’t too concerned about wondering if those guys will step up when their names are called.

“We don’t pay just five or six guys. We pay the entire team,” Rivers said on Monday prior to hearing the news of the suspension. “We pay them to be ready. I told guys last night before the game – I told them our rotation, but somebody else has to be ready.”

Rivers went on to single out Dooling, who in Rivers’ words played “great” in six minutes of action during Game 1. Rivers said Dooling was ready for his number to be called “because he’s a pro.”

Being a pro’s pro is engrained in the DNA of this team. They’ve been here all season long and just about every player who has spent time in Boston’s locker room has delivered when they’ve gotten the opportunity. Rivers, for one, doesn’t expect that trend to change tomorrow night in Game 2.

“I don’t know whether we’re going to win or lose tomorrow,” Rivers said, “but I can guarantee you we’ll be ready to play.”