HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s good to see this Rajon Rondo again.
It might not be for the rest of the NBA, but for those of us that enjoy virtuoso performances from one of the league’s feistiest competitors, it’s good to see the Rondo we marveled at earlier this season back in action on the big stage.
Just ask the Spurs how wicked things can be when you’re on the receiving end of Rondo’s jabs all night. He took them apart last night with a nearly flawless performance — 22 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and 0 turnovers.
On a night when Tim Duncan returned from a four-game injury absence, he looked good with 20 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, it was the return to form of Rondo that stuck out, thanks to a little urging from his teammates, who jumped him several times after defensive lapses on Tony Parker led to easy baskets for the Spurs.
The fact is, when Rondo is at his best the vibe for the rest of the Celtics always seems to be much better, the Celtics shot better than 60 percent in the third and fourth quarters while also getting quality efforts from both Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Big Baby Davis.
Losers of three of their last four games before handing the Spurs their fifth straight loss, the Celtics had looked a bit shaky. Their chemistry has been off of late, a mix of injuries, new faces and the transition of said new faces into a team that has Rondo’s fingerprints all over it.
He had double-digit assist totals in nine of his first 10 games this season, sending shockwaves around the league that he — and not Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or any of the other contenders — was could very well be the best point guard in the game.
But nagging injuries sapped some of the steam from that movement. He’s had just three double-digit assist games in his last 10, each one serving as a reminder of just how dangerous he can be when he’s playing at the top of his game. Last night’s effort was his first 20-point, 10-assist effort in four months.
Rondo and the Celtics got a much-needed boost from their captain, Pierce, who issued some stern marching orders for the remainder of the regular season, per the Boston Globe:
While Kevin Garnett is the unquestioned spiritual leader of the team, Pierce is the captain, and the Celtics seemingly have been too consumed with the trade deadline activity and the injuries to Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to fully concentrate on the last 20 games.
“The guys know what’s at stake and I just tried to reiterate that, especially with the season winding down and the playoffs around the corner,’’ Pierce said before the shootaround. “I just let everybody know how important these games are.
“At this point in the season, we should be playing our best basketball and we’re not. I don’t know if it’s we’re looking ahead to the playoffs or what, but we’ve got to understand that these games are important as far as building, and that’s what I’m trying to reiterate.’’
Pierce played with a passion not seen in weeks, and his teammates followed.
We’re going to venture out from the hideout here this evening and see if they can keep it up against the Hawks, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, yet another team trying to right things as they head for the playoffs.