The Boston Celtics took a 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston last night as Doc Rivers' side won out by 92 points to 91.
Kevin Garnett's form carried over from the Atlanta Hawks series as he notched 29 points with 11 rebounds while Paul Pierce continued to get to the line with eight free throw attempts. Rajon Rondo added yet another triple double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 17 assists to go along with four steals.
While Rondo went 0-3 from beyond the arc, his two most significant plays on the night showcased that he is still developing as a basketball player. Rondo may be one of the purest point guards in the league, but his outside shot is severely limited.
Last night, that wasn't the case.
With just under four minutes to go in regulation, the game was tied at 82-81 when Paul Pierce attacked the paint after a pop pass from Garnett. The defense was drawn to Pierce allowing Rondo to be completely free to shoot from just inside the three point arc. Rondo rose up and knocked down the shot without it even touching the rim.
With the Celtics then up 90-87 with just under one minute left on the clock, Doc Rivers called the same play from the sidelines which once again allowed Pierce to pitch the ball out to Rondo for the open shot. Throughout his career, teams have been happy to let Rondo shoot from distance because he is a very inconsistent shooter. This has always been the greatest knock on Rondo's on-court play.
This occasion was different however.
For the second clutch situation in a row, Rondo knocked down the outside shot without even touching the rim once again. If Rondo can hit these shots in clutch situations then it is obvious that the ability is there.
For all of his triple doubles, the knock on Rondo will not be removed until he continues to make plays such as the two he did last night. When teams look to defend him the way the Sixers did, a strategy Phil Jackson's Lakers applied effectively with Kobe Bryant in the 2010 NBA Finals, it can severely limit the Celtics' production if not Rondo's individual statistics.
Obviously that hasn't been an issue in these playoffs so far, but once the Celtics begin to face off against elite opposition, they will need Rondo to repeat these types of performances to actually give the Celtics a realistic chance of winning a championship this year.