By A.Sherrod Blakely
INDIANAPOLIS Celtics coach Doc Rivers had his mind made up.
Rajon Rondo was not going to play against the Indiana Pacers.
Missing a second straight game, Rivers reasoned, would give his point guard plenty of time for his banged-up pinkie finger to heal some before the Celtics play at San Antonio on Thursday.
But between the time Rivers told the media that Rondo was out, and the actual game ball being tossed up, things changed and Rondo went from spectator to his usual spot as the Celtics starting point guard.
And while the Celtics lost 107-100, Rondo's return was solid.
He finished with 22 points to go with 8 assists, and showed little to no signs of needing to work his way back into being an effective player for the C's.
It wasn't so much that he was scoring, but rather the way he was getting his points that was similar to how he scored at the start of the season, when he was among the top players in the NBA.
"That's the way he has to play every night," Rivers said. "He attacked. His speed was a factor. We haven't seen that in a while. That's terrific. It's amazing when he does that, what it does to our offense. We're really good."
Rondo said he wasn't sure if the day off helped him have fresher legs against Indiana, but it did allow him to make a greater impact as a scorer.
"I just think I moved better without the ball," Rondo said. "Guys found me."
Rivers said the decision to change course and play Rondo was made after Rondo came to him prior to the game, and said he felt good enough to play.
After consulting with team trainer Ed Lacerte, Rivers had heard enough to believe that Rondo could, in fact, return to action.
Rondo's argument to Rivers was that while recognizing Rivers' desire to sit him, Rondo didn't see any benefit in him sitting out another game because whether he returned on Monday or later this week against San Antonio, if he got hit on the pinkie a certain way it was going to hurt.
"He's right," Rivers said. "I told him to bring Eddie Lacerte in, and Eddie agreed. Once he agreed, I was good."
And while Rondo's play was good, it wasn't good enough to win.
Like most of his teammates, Rondo is getting sick and tired of the disappointment that comes with coming up short against teams that aren't as talented.
When asked about his level of frustration, Rondo said, "It's frustrating just losing."