Every time the Celtics took a shot, it seemed, they scored a bucket. The problem for the first half of tonight’s game against the New York Knicks was that the Celtics weren’t taking enough shots. Turnover-itis, that wretched disease Tony Allen left behind when he left for Memphis, was rearing its ugly head. Thank God, the second half was a different story.
The Celtics finally took care of the ball, Rajon Rondo found open teammates like they were marked with neon yellow pennies, and the Celtics pulled away for a not-as-close-as-the-final-score 105-101 victory.
Rondo was obscene. Back when I was in college, I was addicted to NBA 2k10. I created my own player, a pass-first point guard, and I was obsessed with piling up my assist total. I would pass up great looks just to find open players. I’d make sure that every point my team scored was assisted by Jay King. I’m telling you, my created player averaged almost 40 assists that year. He broke Scott Skiles’s NBA assist record every single game. And that’s what Rondo reminded me of tonight: Jay King, the 2010 NBA 2k10 MVP.
Rondo didn’t register an assist every possession; it only seemed like it. Sure, there was the occasional gift assist from the home scorer (including one especially egregious one when Garnett received a Rondo pass, made about three post moves and then scored), but Rondo found an open teammate almost every possession. He dropped dimes any way you can conceive of — wraparound passes, kickouts to shooters, lobs over the top, whatever pass was necessary. Rondo’s eyes were wide open and his head was on a swivel, and Raymond Felton or Landry Fields certainly couldn’t do anything to stop him. And oh yeah: in between all those 24 assists, Rondo somehow found time to notch a triple-double. Sitting on my couch, I almost broke out in an impromptu M-V-P chant.
As stunning as his performance was, Rondo wants more. He expects even better. When asked by Greg Dickerson about his great distributing, Rondo replied: “To who: them, or us?” He knows he turned the ball over too often, calling his first half the worst half he’d ever played for the Celtics. Last year, it stopped being enough for Rondo to play well — he had to dominate. This year, even dominating isn’t enough — he’s in search of perfection.
The Celtics outrebounded the Knicks 54-38, out-assisted them 33-24, and outshot them 48.4% to 43.5%. They got huge games from Paul Pierce (25 points, 14 rebounds), Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds), Glen Davis (16 points, 6 rebounds), and — of course — Rondo (10 points, 24 assists, 10 rebounds). Only the early slew of turnovers, and a late, mostly insignificant run that cut an 11-point lead to two over the final minute and a half, kept the final score close.
Pierce, Garnett and Davis were phenomenal, but there can be no mistaking that this was Rondo’s night. 24 assists, damn. My created player would be proud.
- Game Notes:
- Shaq left the court with some sort of injury. The extent of his injury was not known, but Doc Rivers said Shaq didn’t look good. And Shaq? He said Amare hit his “right fibula head.” Oh.
- Jermaine O’Neal underwent an MRI after the Cleveland game. No damage was found, but O’Neal will need time to rest. My thoughts? After that game, he definitely needed an MRI.
- After fighting Delonte West after today’s practice, Von Wafer played 2:36. His highlight? An airball from the corner. I wonder what hurt more: a Delonte West punch or that airball.