In the first two — losses to the New York Knicks in Boston and the Hawks in Atlanta — Rondo had triple-doubles to bring his season total to five. No other player, not even LeBron James, has more than two. But the Celtics’ losing streak reached six games, their longest in six seasons.
On Sunday, Rondo was a late scratch with what the team first said was a hyperextended knee suffered late in the Atlanta game.
But after MRI results were read, the Celtics announced that he had a torn ACL.
Still, they overcame fatigue and Rondo’s absence to beat James and the defending NBA champions.
“That wasn’t our mindset going out there, showing that we can play the game without him,” Lee said. “It was us coming together and fighting till the end. ... It just shows that we are capable of playing without him.”
They’ve done it six times this season and are 3-3. With Rondo, they’re 18-20.
But the seven-year veteran is the most important player on a team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, still outstanding but past their primes.
Rondo draws defenders to him on drives to the basket, then dishes off. He’s averaging 11.1 assists per game. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers is second with 9.7.
Among guards, Rondo’s 5.6 rebounds per game lead the NBA and his 48.4 field goal percentage ranks third. And he’s averaging 13.7 points.
Rondo “is becoming the heart and soul of this team,” Garnett said. “He’s coming into his own. He’s had some bumps in the road, but we’re trying to be supportive for him. It was a blow.”
The former first-round draft choice has a reputation for being moody and stubborn. He was the subject of trade talks before the 2010-11 and 2011-12 season, even being mentioned in a possible deal for Paul, who later was traded by the New Orleans Hornets to the Clippers.