MIAMI When the final horn sounded, there was nothing else Rajon Rondo could do.
You always hear about players leaving everything they had on the floor. More often than not, it's just talk.
With Rondo on Wednesday night?
It was the truth.
The 6-foot-1 point guard delivered the kind of performance that's seldom seen in the NBA.
But as impressive as Rondo's night was, it was a bittersweet experience as the Celtics lost, 115-111, in overtime.
Rondo didn't just lead all players - he lapped them - in scoring a career-high 44 points on 16-for-24 shooting. And once again, he was flirting with a 10th playoff career triple-double, but fell short with 10 assists and eight rebounds.
"He had a great game," said Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus. "That's the way we want him to play. He was doing everything."
Actually, Rondo doing everything has been a pretty common refrain for the Celtics' playmaker all season.
But on Wednesday, it was different.
Not only did he dominate most of every minute he was on the floor, he actually wound up playing every single minute of the game.
Rondo had the attention and respect of all the Heat players and coaching staff heading into Wednesday night's game.
But the performance he put on seems to have been even greater than anything they had imagined.
"Rondo was absolutely amazing," said Miami's LeBron James. "He made all the plays and tried to will his team to a victory. He showed tonight why he's an all-pro and one of the superstars in this league. He's an unbelievable player. He gave everything he had tonight."
And as good as it was, it still wasn't enough for the Celtics to even this series at 1-1 and with that, assume home court advantage.
That's why the fact that it's one of the greatest games ever played by a Celtic player in the playoffs, has little to no importance to Rondo at this time.
"It's irrelevant," he said. "We lost. It's as simple as that."
Rondo's comments are not at all surprising.
He has maintained for years that individual accolades will always take a back seat to winning games.
"You know, it's tough to have him play that way and not win the game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Because he did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game."
And that only adds to the disappointment and frustration the Celtics feel, knowing that they let a very winnable game slip away from them.
Rivers said the sting of Wednesday's loss will last around 24 hours for his players.
After that, it's on to the next game.
"It's corny, but they've won two games at home, and now we go to a place that we're comfortable in, and we have to win two games at home," Rivers said. "Then we'll see from there."
Well aware that the officiating would once again be a talking point after the game, Rivers was quick to place the blame for Wednesday's loss squarely on him and his players.
"We just have to play better," he said. "We're not going to blame we have to play better. And we will."
It's hard to imagine Rondo would be close to having as big an impact in Game 3 as he did in Wednesday's Game 2 loss. But if he does struggle, he won't place the blame on fatigue - he played all 53 minutes on Wednesday - or anything like that.
"I wanted to play every minute," Rondo said. "I thought I didn't hurt my team by me playing every minute. I wanted to go out there and continue to do my best for my team."
He did just that on Wednesday, coming up with the kind of performance that ranks among the all-time greats not just with the Celtics, but in playoff lore as well.
"He is an incredible talent," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "He is doing some things that only elite players have done."
To see Rondo evolve into the kind of player that can take over not just a playoff game - but an Eastern Conference finals game - speaks volumes as to how much he has grown and learned from the Big Three that's now the Big Four with him included.
"We feed off what he's doing now," said C's guard Ray Allen.