Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The Celtics-Heat rivalry is great, but much of it is based on off-the-court narratives.The players legitimately don’t like each other, Miami prances and smirks while Boston sneers, and the Celtics’ thrashing of LeBron’s Cavs in the 2010 playoffs was the pivotal stepping stone on the road to “The Decision.”
But Rajon Rondo is the only reason these two team have an actual on-court rivalry. He single-handedly got Boston to the brink of upsetting Miami last year, averaging 20 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a 44-10-8 line in Game 2 and a 22-14-10 triple-double in Game 7.
For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Miami, defence is still the strength of the team. And if you’re going to beat them, you have to crack that puzzle.
So far there are only two proven ways to sustainably score on Miami, 1) next-level ball movement and three-point shooting (like Dallas in 2011) or, 2) you have a guy like Derrick Rose or Rondo — a guard who can collapse the defence at any moment and find the open man.
If someone beats the Heat before the Finals, Rondo will be the guy who does it. Miami thrashed the Pacers once they decided to play LeBron at power forward, Brooklyn still can’t play defence, Derrick Rose is hurt, and the Knicks are too hurt to be a serious contender.
It’s only Boston, as long as Rondo plays like he did in last year’s playoffs.
But that’s the best case scenario.
The thing that makes Rondo so fascinating is that he also has the potential to self-combust. According to reports, the riff between Ray Allen and himself is one of the main reasons Allen took less money to sign with Miami this summer.
And that’s not all with Rondo. Despite everyone agreeing that he’s one of the most unique players in the league, he has a history of being unwanted. The Celtics tried to trade him in 2009, and he wasn’t even invited to the US Olympic team camp thi summer despite the team suffering a rash of injuries.
He is, by all accounts, an outsider and a wild card.
The range of possibilities for Rondo this year is wide. On one extreme, he could buckle in his new role as the centrepiece of the offence, and the Celtics could fail out of old age and chemistry issues. And on the other extreme, he could become a walking triple-double, stare down LeBron and Wade, and derail the Miami Heat Trail of Death that many think the 2012-13 season will become.
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