When the story of last night's 106-104 overtime win in Game 5 is told, Paul Pierce will be in the headlines. But Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins should own the body of text.
Rondo's praises have been sung in this series -- he came into the game averaging a triple-double -- and Tuesday night he deserved no less than a chorus. His 28 point, eight-rebound, 11-assist line looks nice on paper, but it doesn't give Rondo credit for being the Boston offense for much of the game as Pierce couldn't find his shot early.
With the Celtics down four and just 1:40 left to play, Rondo did what the Celtics had failed to do for much of the game: get to, and convert at, the rim. His layup set up Pierce for two jumpers that would take the team into overtime. And in the extra period, it was Rondo who maintained a three-point Celtics lead with another layup and two free-throws, again setting up Pierce to take over on isolations.
"He's just a mentally tough kid," Rivers said. "Him, Paul, down the stretch, they just gritted it. I mean, he drove with the intentions of, 'I'm going to score, or you're going to foul me.' When you see Rondo, you don't see power, but his speed becomes powerful...that's why he's so tough to guard."
On the other hand, you can't question Perkins's power. In 48 minutes of dominant, merciless post play, Perkins laid down 16 points, 19 boards and seven game-changing blocks. More importantly, with the Celtics' stable of bigs down to two -- Mikki Moore did not play -- Perkins did not commit a single foul.
"We just don't have enough bigs," Rivers said. "He has to stay on the floor. He's our only seven-footer, and he was fantastic."
He was also responsible for two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. The first, a block of a John Salmons' jumper, made -- like Rondo's offense -- Pierce's drive with 1:13 to play the game-tying shot. The second, a huge block from behind after Derrick Rose pogo-sticked for an offensive board in overtime, kept the Celtics in the lead for good. And the go-ahead points in overtime? Perkins approved, signed and delivered.
"He's done a great job, I couldn't even believe him because he was everywhere," Glen Davis said. "It's just amazing how he played today."
The story before this series began was that Kevin Garnett would not be playing. The Celtics were down a superstar, and the burden would fall on the role players. Five games later, and with the Celtics holding a 3-2 series lead, Rondo has owned the spotlight. And Perkins -- averaging 12.9 points, 9 boards and 2.2 blocks in the four games prior to Tuesday -- who's relished doing the dirty work, has earned far more credit than he may receive.
"I'm not trying to go outside my role," Rondo said. "I'm still one of the role players on the team but I think I have a greater focus this post-season."
The Captain's role may be to make big shots in big games, but it's the Celtics role players who are making those possible. Role players who are playing like anything but.