Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5


Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5

PHILADELPHIA Typically the best players for each respective team make their way to the podium following playoff games.

For the Celtics, that was Brandon Bass after the team's Game 5 win on Monday night. But as well as Bass played, he should not have been up there by himself.

And as you listened to him extol on all that went right for him in an absolute, we-had-to-have-this-one kind of game for the C's, one name kept coming up: Rajon Rondo.

Rondo can maddening at times, for fans, his coaches and his teammates.

But in those we-gotta-have-it kind of games, there are few in the NBA who consistently step their game up like he does.

And Rondo, not one to disappoint, did just that in Game 5 with a stealth-like dominance as he finished with 13 points and 14 assists with just three turnovers.

"When they broke the game open (in the third quarter), he was the catalyst for the whole attack," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

In the third, the Celtics were trailing 57-53 when Kevin Garnett was whistled for an offensive foul.

From there, it was all Boston as the C's went on to close out the quarter with a 22-9 run and take firm control of the game, and with it, this series.

During the run, Boston made nine field goals with Rondo dropping dimes on all but two of them.

And in the fourth quarter, with the Sixers even more fearful of Rondo's passing attack, he changed his game up just a bit and become more assertive as a scorer by tallying seven points in the quarter.

No matter how you want to look at it, Rondo's imprint has been all over this series - and so far, there's nothing the Sixers have been able to do about it.

"It starts with Rondo," said Sixers forward Elton Brand. "You have to stop Rondo."

Easier said than done, especially when he's in that zone where he's finding that perfect balance between doing what he does best - getting the ball to his teammates - and managing to get some points of his own without turning the ball over too often.

"He's being aggressive, scoring lay-ups, getting into the paint," Brand added. "It leaves Kevin Garnett open for a jumper, it leaves Brandon Bass open for a jumper or a drive."

And that makes the Celtics an extremely difficult team to beat, home or on the road.

To see Rondo thrive this time of year is nothing unusual.

But as many triple-doubles as he has compiled in the postseason, as many dominant performances that he has delivered, C's coach Doc Rivers thought his play in the second half of Monday's Game 5 win was right up there with some of his best moments with the Celtics.

"The second half was one of the best games he's had this year for us," Rivers said. "I thought it was more than just the basketball part of it. I thought his will, his leadership, we needed it. And he gave it to us."

It was one of those rare nights where Rondo's words seemed just as powerful as his play, as he directed players repeatedly to get to certain spots on the floor. It was the vocal leadership that at times, Rondo has shied away from doing as much as he probably should.

"I can hear him barking at guys, demanding guys get into spots," Rivers said. "And that's not something he loves doing."

But he loves to win, and has shown time and time again the willingness to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Said Rivers: "Like I said, we needed somebody to lead us. And I thought he did a great job with it."

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