Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rajon Rondo inspires Celtics after a gruesome arm injury

Boston has been to more than its share of doctors’ appointments since assembling its aging Big Three. Anytime Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, or (mostly) Kevin Garnett would limp off the court or writhe around in pain, it was something to be expected. Sure it hurt, but in the end it was just part of the price general manager Danny Ainge made with the devil when he acquired his championship core.

But this was different.

Rajon Rondo has been called on more than one occasion “the straw that stirs the drink”, the one irreplaceable player on a team laden with future Hall of Famers.

And when Rondo went down after tussling with Dwyane Wade with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, the entire TD Garden crowd almost didn’t know how to react.

Eventually, a less-than-flattering chant about Wade began to erupt. But as that gave way to “Rondo, Rondo”, the Celtics enigmatic, electrifying x-factor of a point guard still squirmed on the court.

Rondo suffered a gruesome-looking dislocated left elbow, and when he disappeared to the locker room, some of the Cetlic faithful imagined how they could hoist their 18th world championship banner with Delonte West, who had paid a visit to the trainer himself late in the first half, handling the ball.

To that point, Rondo was close to his assist-hoarding best. He had 10 dimes to lead all players, along with two points and two rebounds. His aggressiveness had helped the Celtics start hot in a game-changing third quarter.

Cut to West, who was the Celtics’ most productive bench player in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a pair of threes. He airballed his first attempt from three with Rondo still being tended to, clearly struggling to get enough force behind his shot.

Solid sub

With West in the game, the Celtics lead actually increased from 10 to 11 points entering the fourth as old-timers Garnett and Pierce picked up the slack. Then, with just more than a minute left in the third, Rondo reappeared from the locker room, clearly favoring his left arm, and returned to the Boston bench.

Clapping his teammates on seemed to be a chore for Rondo, but he took the spotlight he so thirsts for when he shockingly returned to the floor to begin the fourth quarter.

Hustle plays

Playing with essentially one arm, he made hustle play after hustle play before tearing the roof off the building with a classic Rondo steal of an unsuspecting ballhandler while racing downcourt for a right-handed dunk. Later, he made a contested layup, again without the use of his left-arm, to send the crowd into a frenzy. He finished with six points, 11 assists, three rebounds, and one steal.

Rondo was back. And he was playing better than when he left.

He was writing himself into Celtics’ lore, no small feat considering Boston’s long history of success and an even longer list of legendary names.

Most importantly, it was a night where Boston avoided the vise-grip of a 3-0 hole, salvaging one of the most anticipated playoff series in recent memory. But when memory reflects on Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the future, which the Celtics won, 97-81, in a victory that almost amounted to a side-note, it will be Rondo who will be remembered for his heroic return.

 1 in Boston, might consider sending Rondo a Thank You card.

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