CHICAGO – Jimmy Butler scored 30 points during Game 1. Butler and Dwyane Wade each scored 22 during Game 2. But it’s Rajon Rondo who’s at the forefront of Boston’s mind.
Rondo has been outstanding for the Bulls through the first two games of their first-round series with the Boston Celtics, averaging 11.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game. He has been the engine that has made Chicago go.
It’s no surprise, then, that the former Celtic came up at Thursday’s Celtics practice as one of the keys Boston is zeroing in on heading into Game 3.
“We just have to take it one game at a time and play as hard as we can and eliminate all of the errors, as far as the way that Rondo is playing and the offensive rebounds,” said Avery Bradley.
Not, “all of the errors, as far as the way that Butler is playing.”
Not, “all of the errors, as far as the way that Wade is playing.”
But all of the errors, as far as the way that Rondo is playing.
Bradley believes he knows how to clean those errors up.
“I think speed him up,” he said, while conceding that doing so against players of Rondo’s caliber is no simple task. “That’s the way you get anybody to think the game a little bit more – when they’re not comfortable.”
Boston’s starting shooting guard, who was an All-Defensive First Team performer a season ago, also believes that knocking Rondo off of his game in even the slightest of ways will benefit the Celtics in substantial ways.
“Even if we can get them out of their sets, even if we can get someone else bringing the ball up the court, whatever it is, we have to try to do that as a team,” he said, subtly implying that the team could employ a full-court press during Game 3. “I feel like that can really help us out.”
Doing so won’t be simple, however, as Bradley indicated.
Brad Stevens commented that Rondo “has been really good” over the last month, but that comment now covers a stretch of five weeks. Beginning March 13 against Charlotte and running through Game 2, Rondo has averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game over 15 contests.
If he hovers around or surpasses those numbers all series against Boston, the Celtics are in trouble.
If they can limit the point guard’s impact and take him out of his rhythm, they’ve got a chance.
So far, Boston hasn’t had any luck against its former captain, and that’s why it is down two games in the series. Its next shot at slowing Rondo down – and grabbing a critical win – arrives at 6 p.m. Friday night.