Coming off one of the greatest performances in Celtics playoff history man, it still feels weird to write that, but there's no denying it's true Rajon Rondo remains the key to any and all Green success.
But the question is: How much can you really expect from him tonight at the Garden? Assuming that another 44-point performance isn't in the cards, how much production do the Celtics actually need to avoid an 0-3 death sentence?
The answer is: There is no answer.
With a player like Rondo, you can't say: "He needs to score 40 or 30 or even 20 points for the Celtics to win. You can't say he needs 15 assists, 10 rebounds or that he needs to play every second. That's because despite the gaudy stats he put up on Wednesday, Rondo isn't about numbers. He may become obsessed with them from time to time, but aside from a random showcase like we saw in Game 2 numbers are never a true measure of the effect he has on a game. It's one of the major reasons we've often seen him stumble into triple-doubles over the course of his career. How he can play what sometimes feels like an awful game but end up with a stat line that's beyond reality for three quarters of the guy's in this league. Because he's freak, but also, again, because he's not about numbers.
He's about the feel of the game, the tempo; he's about energy, intensity and intangibles. That's Rondo. And that's who he has to be tonight. If the numbers come, they come. But it will not make or break the Celtics fate. All he has to worry about is pushing the ball, keeping every one involved and taking what the defense gives him. Which will be very familiar.
Listen, the Heat aren't going to do anything different than they did in Game 2. First of all, because there's no way they're counting on Rondo to hit 10 of 12 jump shots andor 10 of 12 foul shots in consecutive games. Second, because despite all of Rondo success, the Heat still won. Why go crazy changing things? You're really going to alter your game plan because a guy who is a notoriously bad jump shooter had one good shooting night? No way. You do that, and you're just opening yourself up to get beat by Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, who themselves have a much more explosive and terrifying track record that Rondo does.
In the end, the Heat will leave the door open for Rondo to have another enormous game, but he doesn't need to have one. There's no specific numerical requirement for what they need, except that they need him to be him: Focused. Resilient. Relentless. Rondo.
That will be enough.
And then it's on to Game 4.