‘PLAYOFF Rondo’ was in full display as the feisty point guard flirted with a triple-double while firing up his team with some vintage trash talking just as the Boston Celtics fell apart late in a Game 2 loss on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) to the Chicago Bulls in their first-round series.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley heard his former teammate Rondo prod a Bulls team in finishing off their lethargic foes. And the longest tenured Boston player couldn’t disagree as he saw his teammates hold their heads down en route to the East top team falling into a 0-2 hole against the eighth-seeded Chicago squad.
“I looked around and a few times in the game, guys were putting their heads down, I think getting down on themselves. But as a team, we have to stay together. The other team is looking at that. They're using that as motivation for themselves,” he said.
“I could even hear Rondo, like, 'Yeah, they gave up. They gave up.' But you never can let a team see that. You have to continue to be positive and go out there and play hard, no matter what the outcome is,” added Bradley.
Two years after an overachieving Celtics team was cheered despite a first-round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bradley and company heard the boos this time after another uninspired effort in a 111-97 loss in Game 2.
The Celtics were outhustled in the offensive glass in both games, and fell behind by double digits early in Game 2. They spent much of the second half frustrated with the calls and with each other, while Rondo showcased vintage form in finishing with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.
Boston is the second top-seed team under the current NBA playoff format to lose the first two games at home against the eighth-place squad. The first one was the 1993 Phoenix Suns, who went on to win the next three games over the Los Angeles Lakers in a best-of-five showdown.
To replicate such feat, the Celtics must first learn how to beat the Bulls, starting with Game 3 on Friday.
“It's not an ideal situation for us. You don't put yourself down 0-2 at home. But it's not the end of the world for us. We have the unit to go to Chicago and take Game 3. It's not ideal, but we feel like we can bounce back,” said Jae Crowder.
“Jae said it best, that’s all we have. Game 3 is a must-win for us,” added Al Horford, in the post-game press conference.