Blakely: Rondo giving C's just what they need now

Blakely: Rondo giving C's just what they need now
March 9, 2014, 11:00 pm
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BOSTON — It turns out the Detroit Pistons didn't get the memo.

Backing off of Rajon Rondo just doesn't work like it used to.

Not only does Rondo have a much-improved jumper that makes teams pay when they do this, but backing off him provides his already off-the-charts court vision even more time to survey the floor and figure out how to hurt teams.

And he did so in Rondo-esque fashion with a near-perfect floor game on Sunday as Boston beat the Pistons, 118-111.

Before we get too deep into this, Boston's victory has to be put in perspective.

The Pistons (24-39) have lost nine straight road games and for the most part, have been one of the NBA's biggest disappointments this season.

So, to make a big a deal out of the Celtics' victory, their second in a row, just wouldn't be right.

Still, that shouldn't take away from the mastery of which Rondo sliced and diced up the Pistons.

The idea of him racking up 18 assists is indeed an impressive statistic.

Still, what spoke more to Rondo's dominance on Sunday was the fact that those 18 assists came without a single turnover being committed.

It was the most assists he's ever had without committing a single turnover.

The previous record?

That also came against the Pistons back on Nov. 2, 2010 when he had 17 assists and no turnovers in a 109-86 victory.

For someone who has the ball in their hands as much as Rondo does, that's truly the more impressive number on this night when there were plenty of candidates who played well.

But as well as Rondo played, by no means was he perfect (5-for-15 shooting, 1-for-6 on 3s).

Still, his play on this night was perfectly suited for what the Celtics need at this point in the season.

This team isn't going to the playoffs, not with this Death Row of a schedule awaiting them with all but six of their remaining 19 games against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended now.

But there is something to be said for finishing the season strong and using that as momentum in the following year.

Look at the Toronto Raptors.

Even before they were officially eliminated from the playoffs last season, their progress throughout the season was finally starting to manifest itself in victories.

They closed out the season by winning seven of their last eight games, which included the final five.

They have been the third-best team in the East most of this season, trailing two-time NBA champion Miami Heat and an Indiana Pacers team that has boasted the league's best record most of this season.

It's kind of strange comparing Boston and its long lineage of tradition with the Raptors, but there's no question that the Celtics can do what they did which is to have success at the end of this season spill over into the next.

And that's why Rondo's play is so vital to this team going forward in these final few weeks.

The four-time All-Star is as close to being on top of his game as we've seen him all season. He has already displayed an improved perimeter game which makes him an almost unstoppable player when he's getting his shots, in rhythm.

"We were just trying to back off of him and let him take outside shots," said Detroit's Will Bynum. "Sometimes you back up like that, he's [Rondo] able to run the team and got the guys the basketball when they needed it. Tough covering him tonight."

And it'll only get tougher as he continues to work himself back into basketball shape while blending in a Rondo staple - getting teammates the ball in their sweet spots for easy assists - with his latest weapon: a reliable jumper.

"It is unbelievable," said Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk. "You can really see him [Rondo] starting to excel even more. He was great when he came back, but now he is taking it to a whole other level."