BOSTON -- After an awkward possession in which he was forced to launch a desperation 3-pointer to close out regulation in Sunday's overtime win over the Knicks, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo endured questions about whether he had the confidence to shoot the ball in a pressure situation.
While he admitted earlier this week that he'll always be a pass-first player, Rondo didn't pass up the opportunity to shoot another crunch-time jumper in Wednesday's 113-110 triumph over the 76ers.
Though, much like Sunday, he didn't have much choice. Here's how it played out:
The Celtics were clinging to a 107-105 lead with 34 seconds to play. Pierce took the ball to the top of the key and drained the shot clock before running a pick-and-roll with Kevin Garnett. Pierce passed to Garnett, but with Rondo cutting backdoor along the baseline, Garnett fed the point guard from the paint and, while Celtics coach Doc Rivers would later admit he preferred Garnett take that shot, Rondo made something happen even when defenders sealed the area under the basket.
Running out from under the hoop, Rondo wheeled around with little more than a second on the shot clock and lofted a 17-footer that ripped through the twine for a four-point cushion.
What was Rivers thinking when the shot went up?
"Make it, go in," joked Rivers. It did, giving Boston a 109-105 lead with nine seconds to play.
Now the Celtics are hopeful the play will give their feisty fourth-year point guard confidence to shoot those shots moving forward.
"There were two or three times I thought he could have taken a jump shot," said Rivers. "But we'll get there."
Rondo did keep the team in overdrive throughout a furious fourth quarter that saw Boston rally from a six-point deficit. He finished with 10 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals.
More importantly, he finished with confidence.
"He's confident to take [the shot] in that stretch," said Pierce. "It was the biggest shot of the night because if he doesn’t make that, we’re looking at the possibility of Philly coming down and tying it or winning the game.
"Usually shots like that do give a player confidence. I remember my first game-winner that I made, back when I was in my first or second year in the league, I just felt like I could do it all the time in the game. It gave me a lot of confidence in those situations. So hopefully it could do the same for Rondo."
Added Ray Allen: "All it takes is one. You see a situation you're in and you step up big for your team. It can definitely cause a small fire to turn to a blaze for him."