Exit Rondo, But The Show Goes On For The Celtics

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Celtics 100, Heat 98 (2OT)

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Celtics ended their six-game skid in dramatic fashion as they knocked off the defending champion Heat in a game that was supposed to be about Ray Allen’s first game in the TD Garden as a visitor. However in the midst of this contest America, and we have to assume the Celtics players, were alerted to the fact that Rajon Rondo did indeed suffer a torn ACL during Friday’s loss at Atlanta and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a shocking twist that may bring some resolution to the debate about whether the C’s are headed towards another deep playoff run, or a lottery pick, but for one game at least, the rest of the Celtics rallied around their injured star and pulled together for a much needed win.

Allen was honored with a tribute to his achievements on the arena’s Jumbotron, but once he stepped on the floor the fans let him know how they really felt about his change of allegiance.

The game was tied at 45 at the half, and considering how fast word of Rondo’s injury spread through social media, it seems extremely likely that the Celtics’ players were also aware of the situation by the start of the second half. Regardless, the reserves exhibited a lot of determination and a “next man up” mentality in what proved to be a gritty contest.

Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry were the biggest beneficiaries when it comes to replacing Rondo’s minutes, but it seemed as though the whole team raised their level of play when they became aware of the injury situation. Perhaps this was simply a game that they needed to save their season (no pro wants to pack it in and think about rebuilding for the future), or perhaps they were able to play more freely since less is “expected” of a team that is missing their superstar point guard. In any case, the way this game ended should give Danny Ainge some pause if he does intend to make fundamental changes after losing Rondo.

If Boston does indeed plan on making moves in the interest of rebuilding, the front office should feel confident in this team’s future prospects based on the way the bench has stepped up over the last couple games. Jeff Green was an instrumental part of this win, and for the first time this season showed a lot of emotion on the floor. He emphatically thumped his chest after hitting a key corner three in the fourth quarter, and produced a rare (for the Celtics) athletic move for the highlight reels with this dunk over Chris Bosh.

Green was able to harness his athleticism and came as close as any human can come to covering LeBron James in one-on-one situations down the stretch. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had their lesser moments in this game, but the way they willed their team to victory on both ends of the floor indicates that they have no interest in breaking the band up this early.

NBA trade rumors are always a hot topic and the Celtics will likely dominate the headlines this week. Clearly they need to fill one of their two empty roster spots with a true point guard, and all offers will be considered, even those that include Pierce or Garnett. Yet until we see how the loss of Rondo effects this team’s play over the next few weeks there is no reason to make wholesale changes to a roster that is still capable of keeping a weak Eastern Conference.

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Nate Weitzer

I've always loved the Celtics. Growing up with only a whiff of the glory days of Bird, Parish, and McHale, I was wistful yet invested in the awful teams of the 17-year period (1991-2007) where the Celtics never really competed. When they won the finals in '08 I was ecstatic, my favorite memory was slapping a bar table so hard I spilled a pitcher after Pierce's four-point-play in Game 1.