(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Rondo Beats Buzzer, Celtics in 1st Rivalry Game as Laker
When his name was called in pregame introductions, the sold-out Boston crowd erupted for Rajon Rondo. Little did they know, he would have them silenced at the end of the night.
With time running out and the Lakers trailing by one, Tyson Chandler kept a loose rebound alive just in time for Rondo to scoop it up and fire a shot from the elbow at the buzzer.
Seconds later, he was being lifted into the air by his Lakers teammates, as he had just given them a 129-128 victory over his former team, the rival Boston Celtics.
“I can’t describe it,” Rondo said. “It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t have imagined that one.”
One of the most iconic players in Celtics history, Rondo needed zero introduction to this rivalry, as he spearheaded the team in NBA Finals battles with the Lakers in 2008 and 2010.
But this sure was an unforgettable way to debut on the other side of basketball’s greatest rivalry.
Rondo was instrumental in rallying the Lakers from an early 18-point deficit, as he finished the night with 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
He took advantage of Boston refusing to respect his 42 percent 3-point shooting this season, hitting three triples. And he also did plenty of work off the drive, including a scooping layup to beat the third-quarter buzzer.
As expected, Rondo controlled much of the offense with his passing. The Lakers hit a franchise-record 22 3-pointers, including several assisted by Rondo. He also had a huge hand in L.A.’s 42-point third quarter.
But his biggest play of the night was obviously his final bucket, or as coach Luke Walton called it: “The perfect ending.”
“He couldn’t have even dreamed about that moment,” said LeBron James, who had 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. “To be back here in the Garden where he won a championship and obviously he has so many memories of being here — for him to get his hands on the ball at that moment and be able to knock that down, it was a historic ending.”
The backdrop was perfect for such an occasion.
Former teammate and close friend Kevin Garnett sat courtside wearing Rondo’s jersey. So, too, did Rondo’s young son.
“Believe it or not, I always dream like this,” Rondo told TNT after the game. “But I couldn’t picture it being this sweet. Coming back home, 13 years in, where it all started.”
Kyle Kuzma (25 points, five 3-pointers), JaVale McGee (17 points, eight rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points, five 3-pointers) had key performances. ... Kyrie Irving led Boston with 24 points, albeit on 6-of-21 shooting. … The Lakers won despite shooting just 7-of-18 on free throws, while Boston went 20-for-20. … Both teams had 35 assists and only eight turnovers.