BOSTON -- The Celtics'
In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, he submitted a three-point, two-assist, two-turnover clunker. That performance came on the heels of a marginally better five-point, two-assist effort in Game 4.
His coach was starting to get down on him -- "[Rondo] is not playing well right now,"
Good news, Boston. Rondo didn't listen.
Playing in the biggest game of his life, Rondo was arguably the best Celtic on the floor Tuesday night when Boston buried the Lakers 131-92 to win the NBA title in six games. Though he shot only 8-for-20 from the field, Rondo spearheaded Boston's superior defensive effort, finishing with six steals (including one monster rip from the hands of the 6-foot-10, 230-pound
"Rondo was the star," Lakers coach
Said Rivers: "I was so proud of Rondo. He was really struggling, and to fight his way through that and to play with the energy and the toughness that he played with was absolutely fantastic."
To call Rondo "oft-criticized" would be a dramatic understatement. After the arrival of
Though the Celtics remained committed to Rondo (he started 77 games this season), they did add the 38-year-old Cassell as a free agent in March, an indication, perhaps, that they weren't entirely comfortable going into the postseason with an inexperienced play caller.
Turns out, the Celtics didn't need Cassell. Rondo excelled in the first-round series against Atlanta, averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 assists while matched up with Bibby. He followed that up with a 10.6/6.0 performance in the second round against Cleveland. He continued to put his stamp on the playoffs in the Eastern Conference finals, averaging 9.2/6.5 against his nemesis, Detroit's
Rivers never considered a lineup change despite Rondo's early struggles in the Finals. The coach said he told Rondo, "You'll be right there at the beginning of the game. Just be aggressive. I will never fault you for being aggressive."
Rondo, however, was a little rattled after back-to-back poor games in Los Angeles.
"Before the game, I was going through a lot," Rondo said. "I talked to
He didn't. As Rondo walked off the dais after his postgame news conference, a jubilant Garnett grabbed him and pulled him tight. "What are they going to say about you now, boy?" Garnett said. "What are they going to say about you now?"