CHICAGO -- The Boston Celtics may have caught a break -- literally -- in their quest to get back into their first-round series with Chicago with the news that ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo has a right thumb fracture that will keep him out indefinitely.
The Bulls come into tonight's Game 3 matchup against Chicago trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the team learned of Rondo's injury Thursday night, adding that he's in a cast (that has more to do with a previous wrist injury) and will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days. That essentially means he’s out for the remainder of the series.
Hoiberg said Jerian Grant will replace Rondo in the starting lineup, although All-Star Jimmy Butler will assume more of the point guard-like duties.
“We’re going to miss ‘[Rondo], the pace that he sets for this team, the leadership that he brings,” Butler said. “And the way that he plays. But we still have to go out there; we’re expected to win. We know what we’re capable of. I guess we’re doing it for him now.”
Hoiberg said the injury, which will not require surgery according to Bulls officials, occurred in the third quarter of Game 2 on Wednesday night.
“It sounds like [Rondo] was swiping at the ball and either hit the ball or [Kelly] Olynyk’s elbow,” Hoiberg said. “That’s when the fracture occurred."
After the play, Rondo continued to play on and finished with 40 minutes, 22 seconds of court time. Only Butler logged more minutes.
"It shows the toughness of Rondo to fight through and battle,” Hoiberg said.
For Celtics fans, that’s nothing unusual.
In Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat, Rondo suffered a hyper-extended elbow injury that initially looked like it could have been a season-ending play when he and now-Bulls teammate Dwyane Wade were tangled up.
Minutes later, Rondo was back on the floor and the Celtics won 97-81 for what became their lone win in the series.
And when Rondo suffered a torn ACL injury on Jan. 27, 2013 at Atlanta, he continued to play on that game, unaware of the injury that wound up sidelining him for the rest of the season.
One of the keys to Chicago's unexpected dominance of this series has been the play of the former Celtic All-Star.
In Game 2, Rondo had a near triple-double with 11 points, 14 assists and 9 rebounds.
“Rondo has been unbelievable in the two wins we had in Boston,” Hoiberg said. “So we get the news that we got [Thursday] night, it was very difficult. At the same time, the guys are going to get an opportunity to play more. It’s what you work for. It’s why you put so much extra time in the gym, is for this opportunity.”