Rondo key to clinching win after bad effort in Game 5

6/18/2008 - NBA Rajon Rondo Boston Celtics + more

BOSTON -- Young point guard Rajon Rondo played so poorly in Game 5 of the NBA Finals that Celtics coach Doc Rivers used him for just 14½ minutes. That all changed in Game 6.

Rondo was hesitant to shoot in Sunday night's fifth game loss in Los Angeles. He even passed up an easy layup to throw the ball out for a longer shot that missed. Rondo hit one of seven shots and, Rivers said, was "just not playing well."

The speedy second-year starter came of age on Tuesday night with a brilliant all-around game that helped Boston win its 17th NBA championship with a 131-92 victory over the Lakers.

His line: 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, six steals. With 18 steals, the Celtics broke the finals record of 17 by Golden State in 1975.

And there's more: Rondo had just one turnover in 31 minutes. And the reluctant shooter fired the ball up 20 times, more than any of his teammates.

Pretty amazing, especially since he hurt his left ankle early in the third quarter of Game 3 -- a Celtics loss -- and spent most of the second half of that game on the bench. But Rivers knew how important he was to the team.

"He's the one pure point guard on our team that has the ability to make plays, and that's what we would lose" if Rondo didn't play in Game 4, Rivers said.

But he played in that game and again in Game 5. He saved his best for the clincher.