Doris Burke dropped a stone on the heart of Celtics fans everywhere during Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised Celtics-Heat game. Shortly after halftime, she confirmed reports that Celtics point guard and All-Star starter Rajon Rondo has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. The Celtics were able to pull out an exhilarating double-overtime victory over their bitter rivals in Ray Allen’s return to Boston, but the excitement from the win was short lived.
While the coaching staff was already aware of the situation, the players had not been told of Rondo’s condition during the game. Paul Pierce was the first to find out when he was informed of the prognosis by Burke during a post-game interview. The look on his face said it all. The Celtics are going to feel the loss of their point guard on and off of the court. One glaring concern is the lack of another facilitating point guard on Boston’s roster. There has been a very distinct difference in the C’s half-court offense this season when Rondo isn’t in the game, and, for the most part, not in a good way.
You may be asking yourself, “Well how did they manage to win today if that’s the case?”. Brace yourself: DEFENSE. The Celtics got back to the team identity that fans in this region have come to love over the last five years. The offense was a product of their defense today. Steals and rebounds lead to transition buckets for the green team. The Celtics have now shown us all that they are capable of playing with anybody, but they’ve also placed the ownness on themselves. Now that we’ve seen them get it done once, it’s up to them to prove that they can do it again, and again, and again. If you can beat the best of the best, the defending NBA champions, without a player of Rajon Rondo’s caliber, you should be able to ride a weak Eastern Conference slate to the playoffs. It’s up to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to pull this team in the right direction now, and it’s their turn, once again, to return “Celtic Pride” to the NBA’s most storied franchise. Defense needs to be a priority, and it’s pretty clear that hasn’t been the case for much of this season. We’re going to see if the team still has a little of least year’s “grit and balls” left over.
Rajon Rondo’s injury will have a major impact on this team one way or another. It will either end their chances at a title prematurely, or it will make them the scrappy, competitive underdog that nobody wants a part of come April.