Rajon Rondo's assists will hold more meaning to the Celtics than his points this season. With the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace beside him, it's expected that the Celtics will not have any trouble putting the ball in the basket.
But nonetheless, in the wake of Rondo signing a 5-year, 55 million dollar extension on Monday, it was comforting seeing his scoring come to life against the Timberwolves last night. Particularly amidst some rather tired performances from his more offensively efficient teammates.
With Pierce and Allen shooting a combined 9-25 for the game and the Celtics trailing 55-45 with 9:45 remaining in the third frame, Rondo's scoring took precedent and served as the main cog in Boston's third quarter revival. Rondo tallied 14 points in the third period, but was not necessarily scoring in the conventional way.
When the Celtics hosted the Hornets on Sunday, Chris Paul took matters into his own hands at the point guard spot with a steady barrage of three-pointers, mid range jump shots, driving layups and free throws. He was a scorer in true form. Against the Wolves last night though, Rondo took a different approach. He snuck his way into the lane on multiple occasions for easy buckets off passes from doubled teammates, he stole the ball at the top of the key from the Wolves and went the length of the court for a layup and in one instance a Garnett block led to a full court pass to a streaking Rondo for another uncontested lay in. He also managed to tie the game at 68 with 2:35 left in the frame on a putback off of an offensive rebound.
"Just aggressive," head coach Doc Rivers said of Rondo's third quarter play after the 92-90 win that brought the Celtics to 6-0 on the season. "At halftime Rondo was saying that he missing shots and I said, 'No you're not. You're not even shooting shots.'"
"The shots he was taking in the first half, to me, were not aggressive shots. The shots he took in the second half, he was aggressive. I thought he was aggressively looking for his stuff in the second half and I thought he was a better player."
Rondo finished the game as the Celtics' high-scorer with 18 points while also recording six assists - far below his 9.7 season average. But credit the low assist number to the fact that the Celtics shot just 44.6 percent for the game. Allen had multiple open looks from three-point land, but made just one of seven attempts. Even Eddie House jacked up an air ball, which perhaps best signifies last night's offensive disparity versus the prior games this year.
While Rondo has taken games over through his passing this season (he recorded 16 assists against the Bulls last Friday), he showed tonight that aggressive play leads to points for the team, even if they have to come from him directly. Rondo's past-first mentality has propelled the Celtics' offense so far in this young season, but there will be games like this that require Rajon to score at a greater clip. Last night was a great sign that if the Celtics need to call on him for points, Rondo is perfectly capable of answering.