ATLANTA For about two minutes on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo might have been the best player in the NBA with the way he was knocking down jumpers, getting steals and finding teammates for alley-oops.
But his play, like the Boston Celtics as a team, was filled with spurts of success followed by stretches in which they struggled.
Those rough times far outweighed the good ones, leading to a disappointing 87-86 loss for the Celtics.
Boston still leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, with Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.
Rondo had a typical Rondo-esque night, finishing with 13 points, 12 assists and five steals along with five turnovers.
The C's love it when Rondo is aggressive, but there's no getting around the fact that while he made some really clutch shots, he missed a ton of them, too.
His 13 points scored came on 6-for-17 shooting which is an inefficient night shooting the ball by anyone's standards.
Making matters worse for the Celtics was that Rondo's poor shooting night came in the same game that Pierce (7-for-17 shooting) had his shooting struggles as well.
"There's nights like Sunday when Paul makes all his shots, and then there's nights like tonight when he and I had low field goal percentages," Rondo said.
Even with his poor shooting, the C's realize without Rondo's spurt of brilliance, they would have never had a shot at stealing a victory.
Trailing 66-54 with less than three minutes to play in the third, the Celtics went on a 10-0 run to end the quarter.
During that stretch, an alley-oop pass to Ryan Hollins, a lay-up, a steal and subsequent jumper and then another lay-up. Capping off the 10-0 run was a reverse lay-up by Mickael Pietrus.
"It was tremendous," Pierce said of Rondo's play in the final minutes of the third quarter. "He took over the game there in the third when it looked like it could have really gotten out of hand, and we fought back."
Said Ray Allen: "He (Rondo) played great. Down the stretch, his energy was always moving forward. At the end, it was unfortunate. If we had one more time-out, it would have been a different scenario. So, we have to go back to the drawing board."
And in the game's final seconds, Rondo had what appeared to be a chance to save the C's one last time.
Atlanta had the ball with 10.9 seconds to play. When they tried to in-bound the ball to Joe Johnson, Rondo intercepted it and began to head up court. With no time-outs remaining, he had no choice but to attack quickly. With his former prep school teammate Josh Smith defending, Rondo ran a quick pick-and-roll with Kevin Garnett that resulted in Al Horford switching out on Rondo.
Horford's defense led to Rondo losing control of the ball as Smith deflected it towards the sideline as time expired.
It was a fitting end to the kind of night it was for Rondo and the Celtics, one with a slew of successful stretches of play - but not enough to get the victory.