Monday, May 10, 2010

List of Top 8 Celtics Playoff Performers - Rajon doesn't need the Rondettes

29 Points, 18 Rebounds, 13 Assists, 2 Steals and +14 Net Points. 

Rajon Rondo's numbers from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals certainly fill up a stat sheet - joining Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to record that many points and rebounds with 13 or more assists in a single game.  Rajon Rondo even got LeBron James to talk about how he would love to guard RR in Game 5 (which as a Celtics fan, I would love to see).  But, one of the greatest games in Celtics playoff history?  Perhaps.  One thing is for sure.  Since the Celtics won the NBA Championship on that fateful day in 2008, Rajon Rondo has slowly emerged not only as the bridge to playoff basketball after the Big Three retire or move on, but he has also emerged as the undeniable leader of the current team. 

Putting aside the ridiculous "MVP" chants at Sunday's Game 4  (Uh, MVP of what - one may ask - since LeBron dominated the season?), has Rondo been playing the best playoff basketball in Celtics playoff history?  Here are the Top 8 Playoff performances in Celtics' history.

8.  Bob Cousy (1958-59).  19.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 10.8 assists.  A true pioneer to the current style of wide-open NBA basketball - except for you Pat Riley. 

7.  Dave Cowens (1975-76).  21.0 points, 16.4 Rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals.  Before he decided that a hack license was a more fulfilling career choice (imagine getting into a cab that Paul Pierce is driving), Cowens led the Celtics to their last championship pre-Larry Bird.

6.  Rajon Rondo (2009-10)  17.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 1.9 steals.  That double pump lay up to behind the back pass to Tony Allen as LeBron James tried desperately to block his shot is the highlight of the 2010 Playoffs. 

5.  Bill Russell. (1961-62).  22.4 points, 26.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, all world defense and uncalculated blocks.  I was considering putting Russell higher than 5th, but that would have defeated my point about Rondo. 

4.  Larry Bird. (1983-84).  27.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.4 steals, 1.2 blocks.  I just liked that they beat the Lakers that year.

3.  John Havlicek (1967-68).  25.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists.  I could have obtained more information on Hondo's numbers that year, but that probably would have required me rereading Bill Simmons excruciatingly detailed Book of Basketball (Soon to be available in paperback!!)

2.  Rajon Rondo (2008-09) 16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 2.5 steals.  I was apprehensive when the playoffs started last year against the upstart Chicago Bulls.  KG was hurt and out of the Playoffs.  Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, carrying the load for most of the season without KG, looked about ready to keel over like a 90 year old walking up the 18th Fairway.  Rondo had shown some slivers of brillance during the regular season, but could he lead a depleted and uninspired Celtics team in the First Round?  Like I said, I was apprehensive.  Well averaging nearly a triple double through the playoffs made me realize that Danny Ainge may have made the right move trading all of the Celtics' youngsters BUT Rondo back in the Summer of 2007.  (I don't count Kendrick Perkins, he's 34 years old).

1.  Larry Bird (1985-1986) 25.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.1 steals, .927 FT percentage, .517 shooting percentage, .411 3-point shooting percentage.  The year by which all others are measured as the Celtics won their last Championship of the Larry Bird era. 

Admittedly, RR has some work to do to catch up to the Celtics' gold standard of playoff basketball, but it is crystal clear that he has joined the echelon of the Celtics lore.  And we certainly believe that he can move up this list.  As my son excitedly pointed out while we were watching the game yesterday afternoon - "Look at Rajon take the ball away from all those other big guys!!  He doesn't even need Garnett and Perkins to help him"  Watch out there, Larry.  Rondo's numbers can only go up when he realizes he doesn't need the Rondettes anymore.

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