BOSTON — The playoffs are not a new stage for Rajon Rondo.
The Chicago Bulls point guard has a bevy of postseason experience, most coming from his nine seasons with the Boston Celtics, with whom he won an NBA championship in 2008.
Rondo seems to bring his A-game when the lights shine brightest, and that certainly was the case in the Bulls’ 111-97 Game 2 win over the Celtics at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
The veteran point guard stuffed the stat sheet in Game 2, scoring 11 points to go along with 14 assists and nine rebounds.
Not only was Rondo spectacular on the offensive end, he also took on the tough task of guarding Isaiah Thomas. He did a respectable job against the Celtics point guard, limiting Thomas to 20 points, which can be considered an off night for IT’s standards.
Rondo credited aggressiveness as the key to his Game 2 performance, and stressed his team must maintain their focused mentality heading into Friday night’s Game 3.
“I just tried to stay aggressive,” Rondo said. “I was pretty aggressive last game, but I got myself into some foul trouble. Isaiah (Thomas) is a really crafty guy and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could. Game 3 is just one game, but its going to be the biggest game of our season and we want to approach it with that mindset and try to go out there and get another W. It’s one game at a time, one possession at a time.”
Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg was more than pleased with his point guard’s outing Tuesday night and expressed just how much of an affect he has on the Bulls.
“I thought his pace was terrific,” Hoiberg said. “He’s in a battle all game long. He guarded Isaiah (Thomas) for most of the game (Tuesday night) and had his hands full with that. He’s a confident kid and that rubs off on all the other guys. He’s been in a lot of these big moments, has championship experience and he’s going to continue to lead us as long as we’re playing.”
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Bulls.
–Robin Lopez torched the Celtics for a second consecutive game. The Bulls center posted 18 points to go along with eight rebounds. Not only has the Chicago big man dominated the glass through the first two games of the series, he’s also shown he’s capable of hitting a mid-range jump shot, which the Celtics failed to defend in Game 2.
“That shot’s open,” Lopez said. “I’m just trying to shoot it with confidence. Whenever we’re passing the ball we’re told to shoot it if you’re open. That makes it easy to shoot the ball. It makes it easy for it to go in.”
–In an attempt to address the interior shortcomings, Brad Stevens benched Amir Johnson in favor of Tyler Zeller to start the second half. Zeller would contribute four points and one rebound in his seven minutes of work. Given the Celtics’ desperate need for a spark, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Zeller get more playing time for the rest of the series.
–One of the areas, among many, in which the Bulls have dominated the Celtics is bench production. Despite successfully utilizing their bench throughout the regular season, Boston has gotten close to nothing from its role players through the first two games of the series. Jaylen Brown, who was heavily featured in the regular season, has been nonexistent to open the series.
–Marcus Smart was one of the few Celtics that impressed in Game 2. In 27 minutes of action, he scored 13 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
–The Celtics continue to lack another go-to scoring option outside of Thomas. Avery Bradley (12 points) and Al Horford (7 points) struggled offensively in Game 2. If the Celtics have any hope of having success in this series, they’ll have to find points from players other than their star point guard.
–Jimmy Butler continues to show up for the Bulls when it matters most. Following a 23-point second-half performance in Game 1, he followed up with 17 points in the final two quarters Tuesday. The Celtics have shown they can contain Butler in spurts, but it remains to be seen if they can limit him for an entire 48 minutes.
–We can’t emphasis enough just how much of an impact the Bulls’ bench has had through the first two games of this series. After Chicago got 19 points from Bobby Portis in Game 1, Paul Zipser provided 16 points for the Bulls in Game 2. Production from role players has taken the stress off Chicago’s star players and in turn made its offense more well-rounded.
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