BOSTON (CBS) — It’s going to take a lot more than stitches to keep Rajon Rondo out of a game.
The Celtics point guard received nine stitches in Wednesday night’s loss to the Raptors after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head midway through the third quarter. The impact caused a cut between his eyes, but that didn’t stop Rondo from returning for the game’s final eight minutes.
He could have easily asked for the rest of the night off. Rondo is still being eased back after missing a year’s worth of action with an ACL tear, and with Boston facing a double-digit deficit no one would have blamed him sitting out the game’s final frame. But Rondo didn’t want to see his team lose for the 48th time this season from the bench, and told everyone after the game his desire to win is stronger than any pain.
“I just want to win,” Rondo said after the game. “I hate losing.”
“It was just adrenaline going. I wanted to play,” he said. “I knew I could [come back]. I didn’t have a concussion or anything. They asked me a couple of questions; a couple of people didn’t want me to go back out there… I was fine.”
Coming from the same player who played an overtime period on a torn ACL last season, the same player who dislocated his elbow in a 2011 playoff game and returned just a few moments later, Wednesday night was no surprise for Rondo’s teammates.
“That’s what kind of player he is,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who led Boston’s starters with 16 points in the loss. “He’s tough, he wants to win. I knew he’d come back without skipping a beat and he gave us a chance to win the game at the end.”
In the end it wasn’t enough for the Celtics, as they couldn’t close out the Atlantic leading Raptors and fell 99-90. But Rondo made a difference when he was on the floor; contributing to Boston’s first eight buckets of the night (six assists and two layups) and dishing out four assists following his fourth-quarter return.
Rondo finished the night with nine points, 15 assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes. He admitted that he’s still frustrated with his shot and he doesn’t have his feel around the basket, but he’s more upset with losing. Boston was within three points of Toronto twice in the final six minutes, only to let that slim margin balloon back up because they couldn’t get stops on the defensive end.
The Celtics will be in Toronto on Friday, and Rondo is hoping they can make the necessary adjustments against their division foe next time out.
“We have to find a way to get stops in the last couple minutes of a game. They hit a couple big threes and that was pretty much it,” he said. “Good thing we have the same team Friday, we have a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Rondo isn’t sure if he’ll have to wear any special protective gear because of his stitches, but the always fashionable point guard may be willing to try something new.
“Just a Band-Aid for now, but I might try to wear a mask — a black mask,” he said. “But I doubt it.”
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON