Last night the Celtics tied the Heat at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference finals, which is good news if you want to watch a competitive series. It's even better news if you want to watch Rajon Rondo play incredible basketball.
Rondo already blessed us with one spectacular, punishing performance in game two, and last night he was great again (15 points, 15 assists, four rebounds, just 3 turnovers). The Heat, now respecting Rondo's all-around offensive game, had decided to focus their defensive energy on him. So he got back to doing what he does best; picking defenses apart with cruel ball fakes and pinpoint passes. Angrily.
Rondo seemed angrier last night than he had been at any point earlier in the series. While he managed to avoid bumping into, or whipping balls at, any referees, he did attempt to kick Shane Battier, and then, during his half-time interview, he put the Heat on blast for being cry-babies. At one point he even screamed at Ray Allen, who was dawdling at the three-point line, to cut into the lane before hitting him with a laser beam under-handed pass that Allen converted for an easy dunk.
NBA players' petulance usually annoys me. But Rondo's anger is special. He gets mad, but he never allows it to derail the precision of his game. It's not uncommon to see Russell Westbrook get pissed off and then go barreling into the lane on three straight possessions, trying to dunk on everyone's heads. Rondo, however, happily seethes at the top of the key, waiting for his teammates to cut to the basket before threading passes to them through non-existant holes. His anger may inspire his play, but it never diminishes it.
There was this alley-oop in the second quarter, which seemed impossible to convert. Not only is Rondo standing five feet behind the three-point line, he's also throwing an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett, who, at this point, jumps only a bit better than the old guy in your rec league. This isn't Chris-Paul-to-Blake-Griffin, where the ball flies where-the-fuck-ever, just before Blake throttles into the sky and invariably slams it home. If Rondo throws that pass an inch higher, it glances off Garnett's fingers; an inch lower and Joel Anthony deflects it.
Then there was this pass to Paul Pierce just a few minutes later. Once again, Rondo found space where there wasn't any. To get an idea of just how ridiculous this pass was, take a look at LeBron as he sets up to defend Rondo. He briefly glances at Paul Pierce, sees him cutting towards the basket, and understandably decides that he's no threat to score with Mario Chalmers blanketing him. By the time James returns his attention to Rondo, awaiting the point guard's next move, the ball is already skipping past him.
We had a lot of fun watching Rondo change things up in game two, raining shots down from outside. But we have the most fun when he's like this, full of rage, channeled precisely.