Rondo Returns in Triple-Double Fashion

BOSTON – Rajon Rondo considers himself to be a pass-first point guard.

Doc Rivers asked him to be a scorer Friday night.

Someone else must have wished for him to be an elite rebounder, too, because the All-Star point guard delivered in all three major categories during Friday night’s Game 3 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Rondo returned from a one-game suspension and dismantled the opposition to record his 20th career triple-double, the seventh of which has arrived in the postseason. Rondo finished the game with 17 points to go along with game highs of 14 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals.

The numbers tell us that the game came easily to the 26-year-old point guard. However, after returning from a suspension that had him holding his breath for 48 hours, Rondo was timid at the onset of Friday’s game.

Rajon Rondo

Jeff Teague and the Hawks had no answers for Rajon Rondo during Game 3 Friday night.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

“I thought he was not doing enough early,” Doc Rivers said of his point guard. “I thought he was so focused on trying – you know when you come back, you do one of the two things: you either do too much, or you try to stay out of the way. And when you have a point guard you really don’t want him to stay out of the way. You want him to run the show.”

Rondo attempted to run the show in the first half but struggled mightily. He looked rusty and his decision-making was questionable at best. Rondo committed five turnovers in the first half alone, far surpassing his regular season average of 3.6 turnovers a night.

“Just a matter of timing,” Rondo said when asked of the early struggles. “A lot of turnovers in the first half, I missed a couple of shots, but my teammates believed in me and told me to keep going.”

And so that’s what the point guard did, all the way to an astonishing triple-double.

It seemed as if something clicked within Rondo’s basketball-savvy mind. He figured something out. He found his way. The man in the suit on the sideline, the guy who used to play point guard himself, may have played a role in making that happen.

“For a point guard, they get mixed up sometimes, executing, running the stuff,” Rivers said after the game. “Sometimes for them that means not being aggressive. And it’s funny, we had an exchange in the third or fourth quarter; I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be aggressive,’ and he said, ‘Well, I thought you wanted me to run the stuff.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, and be aggressive. You have to do both at the same time.’ “

Apparently that chat didn’t work as well as Rivers had hoped. He needed to take the conversation one step further.

“And then finally I told him, ‘Just be a scorer. Just attack,’ “ Rivers explained. “And I thought that freed him up a little bit.”

Rivers couldn’t pinpoint the exact timing of that conversation, but anyone who was watching the game could.

Rondo committed an ugly turnover to start off the fourth quarter that led to a game-tying dunk by Jeff Teague. The play drew groans from the crowd and brought Atlanta even with Boston at 60-60.

That was Rondo’s sixth and final turnover of the night. He turned into a completely different player from that point on.

Rondo found Ray Allen for his ninth assist of the night just seventy seconds after that turnover. He then drove to the rack for Boston’s next basket about a minute later. When he could sniff the triple-double, Rondo attacked the glass and grabbed his ninth rebound of the game with 8:12 remaining in regulation.

Rondo’s final turnover turned the ignition, and then he turned it into overdrive. In the 16 minutes and 41 seconds of playing time after that turnover, Rondo tallied 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. The numbers speak for themselves.

“Certainly, he’s a handful,” Larry Drew said of Rondo. “He’s a guy that is the head of the snake. When he’s playing that well, they’re tough to beat.”

Tough to beat? Try nearly impossible to beat. The Celtics are 19-1 in Rondo's 20 career triple-doubles.

Suffice to say that the Hawks, or any other Boston opponent for that matter, better hope that Rondo doesn't play at this do-it-all level consistently during the 2012 Playoffs.