Rajon Rondo completed a triple-double, leading the Boston Celtics in four categories, on Sunday and single-handedly drew his team even with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second-round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs on Sunday.
Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists drew “MVP!” chants with a dazzling performance that took the home team to a 97-87 win at The Garden, tying the series at two-all heading into Game Five in Cleveland on Thursday.
It easily surpassed LeBron James’ near triple-double of 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, also leading his team in four categories. But he was limited after turning the ball over a playoff-high seven times, and could never help his team break away after drilling the Celtics in Game Three.
“I think it starts with Rondo. He’s kind of the engine that really gets them going,” James said. “He does everything for them. His performance was unbelievable.
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“Rondo was definitely the difference maker.”
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen poured in 18 points apiece for Boston, and Tony Allen added a playoff-best 15 points off the bench. The Celtics seemed like a completely different team after allowing the Cavs to shoot 60-percent in what was almost the team’s worst home playof loss ever.
“I just wanted to continue to attack,” Rondo said. “That’s how we got the lead at first.”
Boston stormed to a 10-0 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull away in an otherwise competitive game. It wasn’t until Mo Williams’ 2-pointer with seven minutes to go in the frame that Cleveland finally stopped the spurt. Most of the Celtics’ points, as was the case throughout, came in transition, allowing Rondo to control the tempo and become more involved in a majority of the plays.
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“Multiple stops means Rondo in the open court,” head coach Doc Rivers attributed to his point guard’s opportunities.
Cleveland appeared to have the momentum at the opening tip, scoring the first seven points of the game. But Boston rebounded and won the quarter by nine, and followed up by taking the fourth frame by eight.
All of the Cavs’ starters reached double-digit points, including Shaquille O’Neal’s 17 and five. But shooting a mere 19-percent from the perimeter was damning, and the Celtics grabbed 14 more rebounds.
“Boston was more aggressive and we have to try and do it for 48 minutes,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “The most aggressive team is going to win.”
With two of the final three games in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are still favored by Bodog to win the series, and eventually the East. But after fumbling down the stretch with a chance to cut Boston at the knees, will return licking their wounds for at least four more days.