Rajon Rondo emerged from his cocoon on Tuesday night to change the complexion of the NBA playoffs. With the Chicago Bulls already leading the series against the Boston Celtics by a game, the point guard stepped up his play against his former team, having a performance not seen in the postseason by any of the team's fans since Michael Jordan. Combined with the surprising play of center Robin Lopez, Rondo put his team in position to make it out of the first round.
Playoff Rondo comes to town
Rondo felt the boos in Game 1 in his former digs and considered it a sign of respect. He flipped that around in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, however, demanding respect by virtue of his incomparable play.
The point guard only scored 11 points, but looking at his scoring output would diminish the impact he just had on the NBA playoffs. He was a +24 plus/minus for the night, dishing out 14 assists and grabbing nine rebounds in the 111-97 Chicago road victory.
His box score was reminiscent of a Chicago Bulls legend: Michael Jordan. In the past three decades, Jordan is the only other player from the team to record ten assists and five steals in a single playoff game. In fact, Rondo hasn't recorded ten assists in a playoff game since he was a member of the Celtics. It must be poetic justice for him to have his best game since then while playing on their home court, putting them in a precarious position.
Putting the Celtics on the brink
At the beginning of the series, nobody could've expected the eventual result of the two games played so far.
The death of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas' sister certainly altered his priorities this week, and rightfully so. The rest of the team has been distracted too, however, and now their playoffs could end sooner than expected, at the hands of a Chicago Bulls team and a Rajon Rondo that have mutually struggled all year.
The Celtics can take comfort in the fact that they're probably a year ahead of schedule anyway. They weren't expected to usurp the Cleveland Cavaliers as the top seed in the Eastern Conference until the playoffs next year - they're playing with house money. That will be little solace to fans concerned about getting destroyed by Rondo and the Bulls, but it may have to do for now. After all, the series is headed back to Chicago and the Celtics have yet to show any glimmer of hope that they can put together four wins in this series before the Bulls put together another two.