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Rondo Ready To Carry Celtics
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On December 26, 2011 @ 2:30 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
Going into the Boston Celtics’ Christmas Day match up against the New York Knicks, all the talk was about how much better the Knicks have gotten and how the Celtics’ championship window was all but closed. It would be easy to look at the final score, 106-104 in favor of the Knicks, and think that a torch was passed from the Celtics to the Knicks that signifies their emergence as contenders, but that wasn’t the case.
The Celtics showed a lot of perseverance, battling back from a nine-point first quarter deficit to retake the lead in the third. They had an opportunity to win it late thanks to a huge third quarter in which they outscored the Knicks 35-17. Ultimately, it was All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony willing his team to victory with a stellar 2011-2012 season debut of 37 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Nearly battling him point for point was Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo, who dealt with trade rumors throughout training camp due to the Celtics’ interest in now Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, didn’t appear to be bothered at all by being recently shopped. He put the team on his back as he went off for 31 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and five steals.
“Rondo played really well today,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. “We can’t obviously get behind on the road against a good team you can’t do that in their building. It’s hard to get out of. We fought; we fought for 48 minutes. That’s who we are.”
“He attacked,” added Celtics guard Ray Allen. “He attacked early, set the tone, got into the paint and softened up the defense.”
While it may have looked like the game plan was for Rondo to be aggressive early and often against a Knicks team with a weak backcourt, that wasn’t how things were drawn up. As the game progressed, though, Rondo sensed that he could do whatever he wanted against Knick point guards Toney Douglas and rookie Iman Shumpert.
“It wasn’t designed, that’s just how the game went,” Rondo said. “Early on I tried to get us in transition to get us some easy looks, get to the line and get in the penalty early.
“Toney Douglas did a great job; the rook did a great job as well. It didn’t matter who was across from me, I was just going to attack and stay aggressive.”
His aggressiveness had the Knicks on their heels all game long and exposed their serious issues at the point guard position. To make matters worse, Shumpert, their first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, suffered a sprained MCL in his knee that will keep him out for 2-4 weeks. They recently signed veteran point guards Baron Davis and Mike Bibby, but they’re both out with back injuries. Davis is expected to be out for at least two months. Luckily, Bibby should be available soon to prevent Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni from only having Douglas at the point.
Even if Bibby was active yesterday, though, it’s doubtful that he would have been able to do anything to slow Rondo down. He’s poised to have his biggest year yet as he has really become the team’s best player now that the big three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce, who missed yesterday’s game with a heel injury, is aging.
One thing that Rondo is looking to do a lot of this season in particular is get to the free throw line regularly for easy points. He made 12 trips on Sunday, converting nine of them. That’s a noticeable improvement from his 62% career average from the charity stripe. Last year, he shot a career-low 56% from the line, which led to an offseason of working hard on changing that.
“I’m going to try to get to the line a lot more,” Rondo said. “I have to stay aggressive. That was a focus, to get to the line and get my team in the penalty.”
Rondo’s assertiveness really opened up Allen and the newly-acquired Brandon Bass inside to have big games as well. Allen had an efficient 20 points on 7-12 shooting from the field, while Bass was great in his C’s debut with 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Bass was acquired in a trade with the Orlando Magic for Glen Davis and is really excited about his new home.
“It was great,” Bass said. “I’m excited about this season, glad to be back and playing. I feel good here. I really like it here in Boston. I just want to come out every night and give it my best effort on both ends of the court and help this team win games.”
With Rondo looking like a potential MVP candidate and guys like Bass giving the Celtics a sizable boost off of the bench, this Celtics team may not be ready to relinquish their spot as contenders just yet. The loss against the Knicks serves as a textbook definition of a moral victory. They’re a long ways away from being as good as they’re going to be at the end of the season and they were still able to nearly steal away a road victory from one of the team’s expected to take their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. As long as they’re healthy, the Celtics should be feared just as much come playoff time as they have been in years past.
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