By Matt Noonan
How would one describe Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat?
The answer, “intense.”
Prior to tip-off on Saturday, the TD Garden was rocking with the sounds of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Causeway Street was chaotic and everyone in Boston flooded bars and restaurants to watch this critical NBA epic duel.
For Boston, winning Game 3 is technically a slight momentum swing. Yes, they have pushed back at the beast, being LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat, but also showed that despite their age, they won’t end their season without a fight.
Although, one of the biggest storylines from Game 3 was the play of Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished the game with six points and 11 assists. But the main reason why I have chosen to highlight his performance was because of the true grit and toughness he displayed, especially in the second half.
Rondo dislocated his left elbow during the third quarter, as he and Wade collided on the parquet while the Celtics were on defense, which then prompted the Green and White fan base to hold their breath, as they watched the teams floor general roll around like a fish out of water and display an incredibly uncomfortable grimace on his face.
“D-Wade and I got tangled up and I tried to brace my fall,” Rondo said to reporters and fans via NBA.com. “I’m not concerned [about my injury]. We have a day off, I’ll be able to get a lot of treatment and hopefully I’ll be ready to play [on Monday].”
Rondo was escorted off the court where team doctor’s popped his elbow back in place, which allowed the young point guard the opportunity to return to his team’s bench, as well as the chance to play a majority of the fourth quarter.
“I’ve seen him play through some horrific injuries and all of us sort of look at each other like what is he doing out here and is he being smart right now,” Kevin Garnett said. “When he came in it was just like typical Rondo. [He’s] a really tough individual and I don’t know what he’s going to be like when he’s 35 [years old].”
The Celtics, Heat and NBA fans watched Rondo not only display his toughness, but also show that he’ll do anything for his team. In fact, his return was like Larry Bird’s epic comeback during the 1991 NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers, when he aggravated his ailing back during the second quarter of Game 5. Although, similar to Rondo, Bird did return and led his Celtics to yet another important playoff victory.
Rondo’s effort and ability to overcome a serious injury was clearly one of the major reasons why the Celtics didn’t lose Game 3. Indeed, he, as well as a variety of teammates are banged up and injured, but this is what the playoff basketball is all about, right? The Playoffs are about not giving up and watching players provide their absolute best efforts to succeed.
Rondo clearly displayed his best effort in Game 3 on Saturday and certainly, it can be expected that he will do everything in his power to follow in Bird’s footsteps and lead the Celtics past the Miami Heat and onto the Eastern Conference.