Celtics

Rondo's story still waiting on an ending

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Rondo's story still waiting on an ending

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Now that the adrenalines worn off from Rajon Rondos legendary Saturday night, we can address one somewhat overlooked aspect of the Celtics victory.

It had very little to do with Rondos return.

Theres no question that when we look back on Game 3, whether or not the Celtics win this series, Rondos elbow will be the story. And that story will live on as one of the defining moments of his career.

From now on, it will be impossible to question Rondos willingness to sacrifice, or his commitment to winning. Over the next four-plus years, there are sure to be lackluster stretches like we saw late this season. But now those stretches will be taken with a greater grain of salt, and not as anything deeper or more sinister. Yeah, it will still be frustrating. Yeah, it will still piss you off. But after Saturday, it will be very difficult to ever question how badly Rondo wants to win, or the extent to which hes willing fight for it.

Ill stop there, because youve read this all before. More importantly, you saw it. Those images, and the memory of Rondo heroics will never disappear. Theyll be forever ingrained on the minds of Celtics Nation and, regardless of anything that may happen with him going forward, will grant Rondo a special (or even more special) spot in Celtics lore.

But lets be honest. While Rondos return may have been the story, it wasnt the reason the Celtics won Game 3.

They were already up 10 points when the elbow went wacky, and as soon as play resumed it was clear that seeing their teammate in that condition (under those circumstances) had given the Celtics all the motivation they needed to put the game away. The lead reached as high as 14 over those next seven minutes, and was still holding strong at 11 when Rondo returned to give them a boost. It just wasnt a boost that they necessarily needed.

By this point, Chris Bosh had already been rendered useless, Dwyane Wade was already struggling in his role as Public Enemy No. 1 (he was 3-for-9 after the incident), LeBron's focus was fading, KG had taken over, Paul was back on his game, and even Jeff Green had a pulse.

The Celtics had played well before the injury, but when Rondo went down we saw the switch flip for the first time in these playoffs. Thats when they officially took control. Oddly enough, thats when the Garden crowd knew that their team would take home victory. Sometimes you just know.

But heres the thing:

No one cared.

As rumors and reports rolled in from everywhere that Rondo had broken his forearm, and freeze frames of his elbow, bent like silly putty, popped up on iPhones around the Garden, there was no reason to care. Or at least, to invest any legitimate faith in Boston overcoming its 2-0 deficit.

The Celtics were playing some of their best basketball in months. They were manhandling the Heat. They were winning the game they had to win. Every one cheered, but they did so with a pit in their stomachs, knowing that any momentum built up in Game 3 would wear off as the next game got under way, and at that point, Rondo wouldnt be there. And at that point, win or lose, the Celtics were done.

The whole thing was pretty cruel. It took Rondo going down for the Celtics to once and for all turn the key and rev their engine. But now their driver was out sick. For good.

Or so we thought.

Instead, as Rondo unexpectedly returned, so did the hope.

Not that he'd save the day, but somehow save the season.

Whether or not he can remains to be seen. We don't know how that arm will hold up, and will have no idea until he takes the court.

But thanks to Game 3's heroics, at least that hope still exists.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: Bucks capitalize on Celtics mistakes

Stars, studs and duds: Bucks capitalize on Celtics mistakes

BOSTON – Even if Gordon Hayward weren’t out indefinitely with dislocated left ankle and fractured tibia, the Boston Celtics would still be working on finding the right combinations to play with that works.

But without him, that process becomes much more challenging as we saw in Wednesday’s 108-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The team’s newer faces in new roles created some old-as-beginning-of-time problems for the Celtics with players not consistently being where they were supposed to while in the game.

MORE:

“They (Milwaukee) capitalized on a lot of mistakes we made,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier. “We messed up on a lot of plays. That can’t happen.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens didn’t mince his words when it came to succinctly explaining how Boston now finds itself on a two-game losing streak to start the season which hasn’t happened since his rookie season as the Celtics’ head coach in 2013.

“Both nights I thought that we got outplayed,” Stevens said.

Rozier agreed.

“Like he (Stevens) said, … you better learn those plays or you won’t play,” Rozier said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

STARS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Greek Freak will be a legit top-5 MVP candidate for his ability to simply fill up the stat sheet every night. Boston had no answer for him on Wednesday, as Antetokounmpo finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and three assists along with three steals.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown

Two games into the season and Brown is looking very much like one of the league’s most improved players. He delivered another strong performance on Wednesday, tallying 18 points and five rebounds which included nine points scored in the third quarter. He fouled out with 1:48 to play.

Terry Rozier

He was having a near triple-double kind of night in a very quiet, below-the-radar fashion. He would finish with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists off the Celtics bench.

Malcolm Brogdon

The NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year was once again making his presence felt at both ends of the floor. In addition to some solid play defensively, Brogdon also had 19 points and four assists.

 

DUDS

Kyrie Irving

This just wasn’t Irving’s night. He got lots of good looks but far too often, came up short. He would finish with 17 points for Boston, but shot just 7-for-25 from the field. He has to be more efficient than that for the Celtics to be successful, especially with Gordon Hayward out indefinitely.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE