Loss cuts deeper than stitches

BOSTON -- Of course he came back.

Rajon Rondo took an inadvertent elbow to the head midway through the third quarter of Wednesday's loss to the Toronto Raptors, and though it split him between his eyes, Rondo took nine stitches (of course, No. 9 did) and returned to play the final eight minutes, nearly sparking a Boston rally from a double-digit deficit.

Rondo played the final frame wearing a protective bandage that ran from his forehead to the bridge of his nose. There was no question in his mind that he'd be back in the game.

After all, this is the same guy who dislocated his elbow in a playoff game against Miami, snapped it back into place, and returned. This is the same player who tore his ACL 14 months ago and tried to play on because he thought he just had some hamstring discomfort.

A superficial wound? That wasn't going to deter Rondo from coming back into the game.

Here's why it matters: Who would have blamed Rondo if he decided to take the rest of the night off? The Celtics were on their way to their 48th loss of a transition season, and the only jockeying for position that Boston is engaged in at the moment is in regards to how low they can go in the standings.

But there was Rondo, returning to the bench while team trainer Ed Lacerte was still probably putting away his needle.

"I just want to win," Rondo said of his return. "I hate losing. I just hate losing."

Rondo came under intense scrutiny last month for a decision to skip a game out west that he knew he would not be playing in. Fair or not, it became a bit of a circus and Rondo's leadership was questioned for his decision to attend his own birthday party in Los Angeles rather than accompany the team to Sacramento.

Games like Wednesday won't draw nearly as much attention, but Rondo's actions deserve notice. Despite the fact that Boston had lost six of its last seven and trailed the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors by as much as 15 during Rondo's brief absence, he asked back in because he hates the way that losing gnaws at him.

"That's what kind of player he is," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "He's tough, he wants to win. I knew he'd come back without skipping a beat and he gave us a chance to win the game at the end."

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