It was never going to be too hard of a night for Rajon Rondo, who was destined to have a big night. Not just with assists, passing at least 10 for the 31st consecutive time, something that hasn’t happened in the NBA in over 22 years, but with his scoring, leading the Boston Celtics above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
A less than perfect team, but still good enough to be the first to score at least 100 points against the Chicago Bulls this season. It wasn’t enough that Derrick Rose is out, but the Bulls’ other starting point guard, Kirk Hinrich, the best defender out of the group of PG Chicago have, was also out with a strained right hip.
With either Nate Robinson or Marquis Teague facing him, Rondo was in for a big night, simliar to the one he had on the season opener in the loss to the Miami Heat. While Rondo isn’t going to put up scoring numbers like Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving (the only point guards averaging over 20 points per game), he did score 20 for the second time this season, to go with his nine rebounds and 10 assists. He’s leading the NBA with 12.9 per game and his 31 game double-digit assist streak is the longest in the NBA since John Stockton had 37 straight from Feb. 27 to Nov. 29, 1989.
Doc Rivers wanted Rondo like this when he decided he’s giving him the keys, full time, to the C’s offense. The ball is in his hands, the decisions are his to make. Preferably initial thoughts were, he’ll finally be pushed to start shooting and scoring much more on his own. So far, you can say it’s working. While the Celtics are looking to be a very flawed team early on, Rondo’s numbers are certainly encouraging.
He’s averaging 15.4 points per game and taking 12.7 shots from the field each night, both (early averages, mind you) career highs. What is disappointing is that he’s struggling to get to the line, where he’s awful anyway (55% this season, 61.8% through his career) but his jumper looks much more consistent and he himself looks much more confident when pulling up for one. Who knows, maybe he’s finally getting over whatever mental block he had that was denying him from becoming a much more complete and dangerous offensive weapon.
Then again, it’s not that every night he’s putting up numbers like Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson during their best days. There’s only one point guard you can be almost sure of for something close to a 20-10 night in the NBA right now, and that’s Chris Paul, with 17.1 points and 10.3 assists so far this season. Rondo is still hesitant when it comes to completely taking over the game. He’s still looking for a pass first, even when he’s the one in a better position.
For a guy who on the outside looks very arrogant, it’s almost weird to think he lacks the confidence to try and take over games each night. Against the Bulls, he didn’t score once in the fourth quarter. He kept looking for other players, but he did the right thing in that case. It’s not only a matter of feeling confident each night about his ability to score, but making the right decisions, which sometimes are trying to score yourself, despite the unselfish nature of his game, instead of looking for a teammate, not always in a better position to score.