Loss of Rondo for year hurts Celts playoff chances
BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics' grip on the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference already was slipping.
Now they'll have to hang on without Rajon Rondo.
Boston's star point guard will miss the rest of the season and undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The Celtics won without him on Sunday, beating the Miami Heat 100-98 in double overtime.
But what will the Celtics (21-23) do without him for the remaining 38 games with just a 2½-game lead over the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers?
"We'll see," coach Doc Rivers said. "Obviously, that's a blow. It's a huge blow for us."
Rondo had triple-doubles in his last two games, giving him five for the season. He brought the ball up, got it to the right people and even improved his weak shooting so much that his 48.4 field goal percentage was third best among NBA guards.
He was averaging career highs of 13.7 points and 5.6 rebounds along with 11.1 assists this season. And he was chosen as the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game in Houston on Feb. 17.
Now he's done.
The club said he was hurt late in Friday night's 123-111 loss, also in double overtime, in Atlanta.
"We still like our chances in the Eastern Conference," said Paul Pierce, who had his own triple-double Sunday with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. "Responsibilities definitely go up when you have Rondo out of the game. (I'm) more of a facilitator. (I) have to (do) a little bit of everything for this ball club."
Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 24 points and 11 rebounds and they responded well without Rondo. Their other guards — Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa — each played at least 25 minutes and combined for 35 points.
"New guys are going to get an opportunity now," Pierce said.
The Celtic's prospects were bleak even before Rivers learned about 25 minutes before the game that Rondo wouldn't play. They had lost six straight games, their longest slide in six seasons. The Heat had won their last four and had the best record in the East.
At first, Rondo thought he had a hamstring injury, Rivers said. Then he was ruled out of the game with what the team said was a hyperextended right knee. An MRI was done and Rivers learned about the ACL tear during the game.
"He's known to play through injuries," Pierce said. "If Rondo can suit up, he's going to suit up. So he didn't suit up today and we knew it wasn't good."
Rivers told his players of the severity of Rondo's injury after the game.
"Everyone was really happy for the win," Pierce said. "It brought a dark cloud in this room when you heard the news."
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