When Rajon Rondo finally managed to pull off his usual pump-fake and spin to get himself an open look in the Heat’s pain, he got rejected by LeBron James and landed straight on his face. Typical for the way the Celtics performed during their bad stretches in Game 1, and an ominous sign for the rest of the series.
Stats lie sometimes. Rajon Rondo finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. For the official triple double king of the league, this is not unusual. Even expected. But Doc Rivers has spoken about the quality of the points he and Garnett need to pick up; From where on the floor. Not the quantity of them.
Rondo failed to dictate a pace. It was always the Celtics chasing the Miami Heat, while Rondo just couldn’t get his famous penetrations that open up defenses to work for him. There was always someone from Miami to disturb his shots, causing him to miss 9 layups. And when he did dish the ball outside, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen struggled to convert. With Pierce scoring only 12 points (5-18 from the field) and Ray Allen doing even worse, there was no chance for the Celtics.
The Celtics are the underdogs here. The Miami Heat needed two games to understand how everything works without Bosh, and are now in full stride, rolling towards the NBA finals. Their defense was too quick for the Celtics most of the night, keeping Boston at 11, 15 and 18 points in quarter 1,2 and 4. Again, Rondo didn’t manage to take control of the game or set some sort of tone with his play making. He finished with a -15, playing 44 minutes.
Rondo doesn’t need the rest like other, older Celtics teammates do, but averaging 43.3 minutes over the last six days might be getting to him. His decision making wasn’t at its best. Rivers said Rondo should stop thinking, but even when he simply penetrated on pure instinct, as Rivers calls it, it didn’t work well for the Celtics. Kevin Garnett did a great job shooting 9-16. The rest of the team? 23-65, 35.3% from the field. The Heat didn’t need to care about anyone else.
Back to the underdogs thing – Even if Rondo starts scoring 20 points and more like the Celtics need him to, it might not be enough. Not with LeBron James, for the first time in his career, having no trouble dismissing of Paul Pierce on both ends of the floor. Pierce was always one of the few players who were able to match up physically with James for long stretches of the night. But LeBron is a more physical player now. Maybe it’s also Pierce’s injuries.
Like the Heat have found ways to get Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier involved, the Boston Celtics need to find a way to get more than just 14 points from their bench players. That’s mostly up to Rondo and to a lesser degree Paul Pierce, the only real play makers on this team who can make other players look better. Right now, as of Game 1, they’re not up for the mission.