|Celtics guard Rajon Rondo drives past New York’s Bill Walker on his way to scoring 2 of his team-high 30 points. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Rondo’s drives a needed boost
The slashing, driving, and scoring Rajon Rondo showed up for Game 2 against the Knicks last night.
While Carmelo Anthony was single-handedly keeping New York in the game with 42 points, Rondo was running at the basket, collecting layup after layup. He led the Celtics with 30 points and dished out seven assists in the 96-93 win that gave the Celtics a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
Down the stretch of the regular season, Rondo fell into a pattern of inconsistency. His 7 points and six assists against the Bulls (April 7) was followed by 20 points and 14 assists a day later against the Wizards. Rondo averaged 37.2 minutes during the regular season and played in 68 of the 82 games. Last night, he almost tripled his season average in points (10.6).
From the opening minutes of the first quarter, it was clear Rondo would not be a passive piece of the Celtics’ offense. Rondo scored 14 of the first 16 points for the Celtics, including 6 consecutive points that led to an early 18-11 lead.
Aside from 4 points courtesy of free throws, all of Rondo’s points at that stage came on a path straight through the paint to the basket. It was an approach Celtics coach Doc Rivers wanted to see from his point guard.
“It was good to see he can do that, that he’s going to do that,’’ Rivers said.
By the end of the first quarter, Rondo had 14 points (6 of 8 from the field) and needed a rest after energizing an up-tempo quarter he described as a “track meet.’’
If Rondo’s aggressiveness changes from game to game, it’s not because of his approach, Rivers said.
“It’s physically hard to do that every night, especially in the regular season,’’ Rivers said. “You think about it: Rondo, he did it, and then I think with about five minutes left he said, ‘I need a blow.’ He was dying. I mean, that’s a hard job, that point guard job. Especially when they’re playing you to drive, they’re trying to force you to shoot, and you’re most effective way is penetration through trees.
“I’m not frustrated by [his inconsistency] at all. He’s been engaged most of the year. He’s had some good games, some bad games, but his spirit’s been right. And that’s all a coach can ask for.’’
After playing 43 minutes against the Knicks in Game 1, Rondo was seen slowly maneuvering around the Celtics locker room with both knees packed in ice. He had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists in the win. He followed that by playing 42:07 last night and taking control early on. So much so that he wore himself out.
“I was trying to push the pace and I got a little winded,’’ Rondo said. “I told Doc to give me a rest. As soon as I was ready, I came back in to start the second quarter, but after that my wind was fine . . . I’m comfortable playing the minutes I’m playing. It was just that first session was like a track meet.’’
Rondo didn’t feel as if his approach was any different than in Game 1. The difference was he had Chauncey Billups to worry about. But Billups was out for Game 2 and Rondo took advantage with Toney Douglas taking over at the point for the Knicks. Rondo tried to force his jumper but didn’t waste much time as he went to the basket over and over again. And when the open looks were shaded in the second half, Rondo settled back into his routine and chipped in another 8 points in the fourth quarter.
“I think I tried to attack Game 1, just my layups were getting blocked and I didn’t make a couple,’’ Rondo said. “But [last night] I made them, I stayed aggressive, I tried to expose them because I don’t think they did a great job getting back in transition. But they made an adjustment. In the second half I tried to go to my guys, Paul [Pierce], Ray [Allen], and Kevin [Garnett].’’
Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com.