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BOSTON (CBS) – While the Celtics boast three future hall of famers, many feel it’s their young point guard that runs the team.
There is a perception: “as Rondo goes, the Celtics go.”
But Rajon Rondo doesn’t agree with that.
“That’s a lot of pressure,” he said when asked if he heard of the saying. “ I’ve heard it before. I don’t know if it’s true. We’re one of the few teams in the NBA where all five guys contribute. We’re not just a one, two man show. We’re a great team.”
While the Celtics can usually win without Rondo at his best, it doesn’t make things easy. When he is on – moving the ball, driving to the basket, and stealing rebounds from much bigger bodies – the Celtics are near unstoppable.
But as the playoff grind starts to wear on the elder Celtics, they are relying more on their 26-year-old playcaller. When he struggled in Game 6, so did the flow of the Celtics offense.
But Rondo is confident all of that will change Saturday night.
“We haven’t got it done yet, but we will [in Game 7]. I think that’s our mindset, our focus, and our intentions coming into the game,” he said confidently. “We’re going to make sacrifices and make plays.”
Some would say that is as close to a guarantee as you can get without actually guaranteeing a victory. That would be Rondo’s second of the playoffs, as he said it felt “like we had won the series” after the C’s Game 2 win over Atlanta in the first-round. Some see it as a little bit of cockiness, which is not a horrible thing for Rondo to have. His nickname is “swag” in the Celtics’ locker-room after all.
But what the Celtics need most is a confident Rondo. With injuries and mileage adding up, the responsibilities are mounting on him. For this winner-take-all affair, he needs to get everyone involved in the offense with his head-spinning passing, take on scoring with Ray Allen seemingly on last leg, and amp up his defense without the services of Avery Bradley.
Taking Bradley’s spot as defender numero-uno , or slowing Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams who both had their way with Rondo and the Celtics defense in Game 6, may prove to be the most difficult.
“[Bradley’s] ability to guard the best guard, at one or two, had really taken so much pressure off of Rondo in particular,” Rivers said of his absent shooting guard. “Not having him means Rondo goes back to that role and running the team, and that’s hard to do. Especially against the team we’re playing who has two guards that attack. Rondo doesn’t have a lot of breaks.”
But the responsibilities shouldn’t fall solely on Rondo. Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus also need to step up off the bench; Dooling with some offense, and Pietrus on both ends of the floor. Rondo can do just about everything, but that doesn’t mean it should all fall onto his shoulders.
Some would say he took Wednesday night off, proving the “as Rondo goes” adage a bit. The bottom line is Rondo has the ball in his hands, and needs to be the one to start the Celtics offensive attack. The offense goes through him, and he dictates what they do. The C’s won’t need one of his spectacular triple-doubles (although that would be nice), but they need a focused and confident Rondo taking the floor Saturday night.
The Celtics will need a full team effort to win Game 7, but it all starts with Rondo.