ATLANTA The Boston Celtics are in the midst of preparing for their Game 2 matchup against Atlanta on Tuesday, a game they will have to play without Rajon Rondo.
Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com Monday evening that the 6-foot-2 point guard was going to be suspended by the NBA for Tuesday's Game 2 matchup after making contact with a game official in Boston's 83-74 Game 1 loss on Sunday.
The suspension, Rondo's second this season (he was suspended two games in February for throwing a basketball at an official), will be without pay and only for the one game.
"Obviously, from a competitive stand point we are disappointed with the league's decision to suspend Rondo. He plays a valuable part in our team's success," coach Doc Rivers said in a statement released by the team. "We accept the punishment and will use it as a learning tool for our players."
The incident occurred late in the game after Atlanta's Joe Johnson lost control of the ball and a scramble ensued that ultimately led to official Marc Davis calling a foul on Brandon Bass.
Rondo screamed at Davis in what he clearly thought was a bad call, which got him one technical foul. Davis turned his back and Rondo moved towards Davis, stumbled and then chest-bumped the back of Davis which drew a second technical foul and with it, an automatic ejection.
"The league is going to do what they have to do," Rivers said before the verdict. "I still don't think it was ever intentional."
Regardless, the Celtics have to go into what should be an intense Game 2 matchup without Rondo, the NBA's assists leader this season with 11.7 per game.
"Rondo has been our best player and it obviously hurts us," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "Someone else is going to have to step up and make it not as painful without Rondo out there."
Look for the Celtics to go with Keyon Dooling or Sasha Pavlovic to start in Rondo's place.
Based on comments by Rivers and several Celtics, the team had already been preparing as though it would not have Rondo for Tuesday night's game.
Prior to the league's decision, Rivers thought Rondo's outburst had more to do with a blown call moments earlier by the officials when the replays showed a loose ball went off of Josh Smith. Instead, the officials ruled that the ball went off of Rondo.
While the Celtics have shown time and time again the ability to make up for - and at times, thrive - a key player being out, not having Rondo available is a huge blow that the Celtics know will be difficult to overcome.
"The playoffs are a little different," Ainge said. "You never want your best player, not playing. But it happens. We have to make the most of it, and guys will have to step up. It's that simple."