In Ray Allen’s Shadow, Rajon Rondo Saves Game 2 for Celtics

In Ray Allen's Shadow, Rajon Rondo Saves Game 2 for Celtics What do Rajon Rondo and LeBron James have in common?

Well, nearly four weeks ago, when the Celtics eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Eastern Conference playoffs with an impressive Game 6 effort at the TD Garden, James recorded what was probably the least-heralded triple-double of the year.

King James piled up 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in the Cavs' May 13 finale — but after the game, no one was talking about his eye-popping numbers. All the buzz was about LeBron playing his last game in a Cleveland uniform.

Why is this relevant now? Because in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, Rondo turned in the second-least-heralded triple-double of this postseason.

Rondo had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics at the Staples Center on Sunday. But after Game 2, it seemed a disproportionately small amount of the postgame chatter was devoted to his dazzling performance. Virtually all the talk was about Ray Allen's eight 3-pointers, the Lakers' collapse down the stretch and the Celtics "stealing" home-court advantage with the series heading back to Boston.

But a few people snuck in some praise for Rondo, who polished off his second triple-double of the playoffs and fourth of the 2009-10 season overall.

"[Rondo] tonight was unbelievable. He made the big shot. He made the elbow shot," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to the jump shot Rondo made from 20 feet out with 1:50 left in the game. "He didn't hesitate, and that was my favorite play for him. But he just did a lot of things for us — the blocked shot [on Derek Fisher], the steals. He's our quarterback, and he does a lot of stuff for us. He was special tonight."

Rondo had a triple-double Sunday night, and another in Game 4 against the Cavaliers on May 9. He had one in the regular season against the Nuggets on Mar. 24, and one back on Jan. 10 against the Raptors. All four games were Celtic victories.

"I think the best part about getting a triple-double is getting the win," Rondo said. "That's pretty much it. I think it would be pointless for me to get a triple-double and lose the game. You know you've done all you can do, but to go out of here with a loss would have been devastating for me personally. The bottom line is I'm extremely happy because we got the win."

Rondo finished with 13 points in Game 1 against the Lakers on Thursday night, but he added just eight assists and six rebounds. He knew what he had to do better in Game 2.
 
"Getting the loose balls," he said. "I think that was key for me personally, trying to track down all the long rebounds. Our bigs are doing a great job of making them take tough shots, but it's going to take a team effort for us to rebound the ball and beat those guys on the boards."

"Rondo's offensive rebounds, some of the little things he did out there, were really a difference-maker in the second half," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "In the first half, it was obviously Ray's shooting that got them going, got them in the lead. Second half, Rondo had some key plays there that changed the course of the game."

Both teams are being led in these NBA Finals by multidimensional players with incredible talent for defending, passing and rebounding. For the Lakers, it's Kobe Bryant — and for the Celtics, obviously, it's Rondo. It's that dangerous blend of skills that's making Rondo so effective in this postseason.

"He was awesome," Allen said of Rondo. "Thinking about passing the ball, and getting in the gaps. He's so athletic, he does so many different things, and that's probably something that people don't realize. He's so unheralded when he gets in there, getting those rebounds."

In this series, it's probably the rebounds that have been the biggest key, especially when you consider what his bigger, better-positioned teammates are bringing to the table: Kevin Garnett has eight rebounds in this series. Total, in two games. Kendrick Perkins has nine. Glen Davis has 10. Rasheed Wallace has 11.

Rondo has 18. And he's a head shorter than the whole lot of them.

"He is athletic," Allen said. "One rebound he went to the roof, it seemed like. He went over all the bigs. That does give us another dimension when he can rebound like that. It takes the pressure off our bigs to have double-digit rebounds every night when our guards are getting it. … He got them tonight."

Seems like these days, Rondo's been getting everything. Even if he's not the biggest headliner every night, he's one of the biggest reasons the Celtics are heading home with a 1-1 split.

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