Rajon Rondo is testing the limits of these axioms, as well as his own pain threshold and the nerves of his coach. The ’ playoff existence may depend on how far he can push it all.
On Saturday night, Rondo despite dislocating his left elbow in the third, leading his team to a series-saving victory over the . The Celtics need an encore Monday night at TD Garden, and all indications are that Rondo will try to provide it, though nothing was certain Sunday evening.
Medical tests taken Sunday — a magnetic resonance imaging exam and a CT scan — revealed no fracture in the elbow, according to the team. Rondo’s availability is listed as a game-time decision.
If he plays, Rondo will most likely be a one-armed point guard. Fortunately for the Celtics, he is right-handed. Rondo also is more a passer than a shooter, so there is no added risk of Heat defenders sagging off him.
Rondo played the final quarter of Saturday’s 97-81 victory with his left arm practically pinned to his side. He will probably have to do the same if he plays in Game 4, but this time for four quarters. That presents a quandary for Coach , who must determine whether a one-armed Rondo is better than a two-armed but banged-up Delonte West or a fully healthy, less proficient Carlos Arroyo.
“If he can play, then how well can he play and does he help or hurt our team?” Rivers said. “We’re not going to do anything, No. 1, to hurt the player. And we’re not going to do anything to hurt the team. It may not be until game time and the game until we find that out. Obviously, the latter part, or either one of those, would be awful, to find out during the game. But that may be the case.”
Rivers spoke before the Celtics held a film session and walk-through and several hours before the test results were known. Rondo was in the trainer’s room, off limits to reporters and apparently groggy from medication. According to Rivers, the pain and swelling had increased overnight.
“He was laying on the table; he had a lot of ice on him,” Rivers said. “And with all the stuff they’re probably giving him, he was half-asleep.”
The Celtics, who trail, 2-1, in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, are dealing with a variety of health concerns. West, Rondo’s primary backup, bruised his left shoulder Saturday. is dealing with the lingering effects of a calf injury that sidelined him for a month. Rivers said O’Neal had “some typical swelling” after making his playoff debut in Game 3. But Rivers said he expected everyone to play Monday.
Rondo was nothing short of inspirational Saturday. He left the game with 7 minutes 2 seconds left in the third quarter, after his when he tried to break his fall. It appeared he was done for the game, at a minimum.
But he returned to start the fourth quarter and helped the Celtics expand their lead to 18 points from 11. Rondo had 4 points and an assist in the period, as well as a key steal that led to a breakaway dunk (although the steal was credited to Jeff Green).
Rivers called it a “character-building win.” But the events of the evening also increased the tension in an already edgy series.
Rondo was injured when Dwyane Wade yanked him down in a struggle for the ball. Some Celtics were angry about the play, although Rivers played down the incident.
“Let’s put it like this: He didn’t intend to hurt Rondo,” Rivers said.
At the Heat’s practice, Wade turned testy and defensive when the subject came up.
“I’m not answering no questions about that,” he said. “I’m done with that. I’m moving on.”