Rajon Rondo will be suspended for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In the closing seconds of the Boston Celtics' Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Rondo made contact with official Marc Davis and was ejected from the game. NBA rules state that any player who makes contact with an official is automatically suspended for at least one game. While Rondo did appear to trip on Davis foot and lose his balance, NBA rules are cut and dry on this and the league was expected to suspend Rondo whether the bump was intentional or not. However despite this bad news the question for Celtic fans now becomes can the Celtics win Game 2 without Rondo? The answer is yes.
Not a lot of good came out of Game 1 for Boston. Even before Rondo got ejected they had played an absolutely awful first quarter and never really turned it around. Every starter other than Rondo struggled from the floor, with Paul Pierce shooting and abysmal 5-16, Avery Bradley going 4-12, and Brandon Bass only managing 3-7. However the good news is that even with the Celtics playing so awful they still had a shot to win that game. They were only down four with less than two minutes remaining and the two biggest plays that preserved the win for Atlanta were two bad calls by Davis. The play before Rondo was ejected the ball clearly went out of bounds of Josh Smith, but Davis awarded the ball to Atlanta. Then Smith traveled and was wrapped up for a jump ball, but Davis ruled he had been fouled by Bass leading to Rondo's outburst. Had these calls gone the other way the Celtics could be in a very different situation right now. However, even with everything going Atlanta's way, the Celtics still almost won. If the rest of the Celtics can step up and play better, the Celtics can win sans Rondo.
The Hawks were very impressive last night. Josh Smith had probably the best playoff game of his career, and Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich each hit a number of huge shots. Joe Johnson struggled, but Atlanta deserved to win. Yet when one wonders if the Celtics can beat Atlanta without Rondo, they should remember that the Celtics almost beat the Hawks in the regular season without Rondo, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Mickael Pietrus. A lot of players are going to have to be much better than they were in game one, but that was going to have to happen whether Rondo was there or not. The good news that was going to come out of Game 1 was that the Celtics still almost won despite playing terribly. All they were going to have to do was hit a few more wide open shots and they would have evened up the series. Losing Rondo makes that more difficult, and it will be a challenge for them to win without their star point guard, but it can happen. The rest of the team just has to play better.
After that atrocious first quarter, where Atlanta put up 31 points, the Celtics did not allow the Hawks to score more than 18 points in a quarter for the rest of the game. If just one Celtics had been able to hit a few of the countless wide open shots that they got, this game would have played out differently. Most people were expecting Boston to come in and take Game 1 and now have had their perspective altered by the Celtics facing a 1-0 and losing their star point guard. However those who want to bury the Celtics should remember that they still almost won despite playing probably their worst game in three weeks. Boston almost beat Atlanta in the regular season with Avery Bradley, Keyon Dooling, and Marquis Daniels running the show. They can beat them without Rondo. Whether it will actually happen is a different question, but it is perfectly possible.
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