Headed into the 4th quarter, the only thing that was left to watch was Rajon Rondo's assist numbers. Could he keep his streak of 10 assists or more alive? If so, how far would the team go to make that happen? At what point was it no longer just playing for pride and in fact playing to pad his stats?
By the end, it was clear that at least some people were going to have a moral issue with what was going on.
Rondo’s last four assists came with under six minutes to play in the game, with his team trailing by 18, 19, or 21 points as each of those last assists were recorded. The final one came with just 51 seconds remaining, when the result was no longer in doubt. Are we OK with this? Players have been criticized heavily for valuing individual accomplishments over the team’s success in the past, especially when doing silly things to try to get a final rebound or assist to record a triple-double. This doesn’t feel any different, and in fact might be worse considering it couldn’t have happened without the coach’s cooperation.
Personally I think it makes it better that the coach and the rest of the team helped make it happen. This isn't Ricky Davis shooting at his own basket to get a rebound for a triple double. This is the whole team doing whatever they can to give a guy a shot at the record books. Rondo already has his name next to Magic Johnson and John Stockton. To put his name above those (for this stat anyway) would be an amazing accomplishment that wouldn't be possible without the help of his teammates and coaching staff.
And what does Doc himself have to say about it?
"Why not?" Boston coach Doc Rivers asked. "The press keeps talking about it, so I figured I would give him a shot at it. The funny thing was that the harder we tried, the worse we got at it."
Interesting choice of words. Is it possible that Doc wanted to make a point to his players there?
Rondo, ...being Rondo, didn't seem to be that phased by any negative questions about it.
"I don't think that much about the streak, but I know that down the road, it will be something that I'm very proud that I accomplished," he said. "People will probably talk about what happened tonight, but I don't know. I wasn't born when Magic had his streak, and I wasn't watching yet when Stockton had his. There might have been games when they stayed in with a 30-point lead to get their streak going, but there wasn't as much attention paid back then."
That's a solid point. In any long streak there are going to be games where things didn't go the right way for the team or things that happen that aren't necessarily in the flow of the game. It happens.
Also, at the very least, this stat padding wasn't being done when there was still a chance to salvage the game. It was only after the game was completely out of hand. So at that point, why not get the 10 assists? What's the real harm?
But I know that some will disagree and I get that. There's a real argument to be made about respecting the game and playing the game "the right way." I'd rather have the win and have the streak stopped than the other way around, but we can't always get what we want.
The bottom line is that last night was a loss. Will we remember this game if/when Rondo breaks the record? Perhaps. Will we remember it 15 years from now when some kid breaks it? Probably not.