Don't look now, but Rajon Rondo may be on the verge of a breakthrough. Rondo has always been considered a two-trick pony with his uncanny ability to make seemingly impossible passes and his stellar vision and play on defense. For years, it had been the third trick -- shooting the basketball -- that has held him back.
After Sunday's game, it appears as if Rondo has finally mastered all three.
Rondo finished with a team-high 31 points, 13 assists and five steals in the Boston Celtics' 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks on Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden. Rondo was 11-of-19 from the field and attacked the basket at will, getting to the free throw line a team-high 12 times.
"We want him to be aggressive," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. "The best part of the game for us I thought Rondo just attacked the basket. This Rondo we want. This is what we talked about last year. Getting to the free-throw line. Taking the shots when they're open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game. I don't know if you can do that every night. But overall that's the Rondo that we want"
Rondo had an impressive preseason on the offensive end of the ball, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the first half of Boston's preseason finale over the Toronto Raptors. In the preseason opener, Rondo had five points, eight assists and four steals.
We've seen a very limited sample size, yes. However, seeing as how this is all we have to base anything on, it is nothing but encouraging. The Knicks may not have been the NBA's best defense, but they are still a major threat and definite road block that the Celtics will need to evade if they want to win the Atlantic Division.
Can Rondo keep up this high level of play? In short, no. It's highly unlikely that Rondo will score 30 points per night -- only the NBA scoring champion usually does that, and just barely -- but it's entirely possible that the assists and steals stay at a somewhat similar level. Rondo was second in the league in assists last season (11.2 APG) -- setting a career high -- and tied a career high with 2.3 steals per game. The sky is the limit for Rondo in those categories.
Still, if Rondo can score anywhere from 15 to 20 points a night, it would be a huge boost for Boston. Pierce is still out for an undetermined amount of time (although it would seem that he'll be back shortly -- at least we hope) and Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett can't do all of the scoring, so Rondo's contributions on offense will be critical.
Boiling everything down, if Rondo can score consistently, the Celtics can remain competitive. If he can't, the Celtics are possibly in for a long, long season.
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