MIAMI -- The effort doesn't deserve the asterisk.
Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo posted 44 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first player in league history to reach those thresholds in a playoff game. It has happened only six times during the regular season.
But the effort will be tempered by the fact that Boston lost the game, dropping a 115-111 overtime decision that leaves Miami with a 2-0 stranglehold as this series heads north.
Rondo showcased his much-maligned jumper by connecting on 16-of-24 shots, including 10-of-12 attempts from beyond 15 feet. And yet, it's a 1-foot layup that he missed late in the extra session that worms its way into the spotlight.
The game was knotted at 105 with 95 seconds remaining when Rondo, having already scored Boston's first six points in the extra period, attacked from the right side of the lane.
Video replays show Dwyane Wade shuffling over to defend the basket and his right arm appears to make contact with Rondo's head as Wade followed through on an attempt to block the shot.
The whistle never blew, the Heat raced the other way as Rondo picked himself off the floor and barked at the officials nearby (coach Doc Rivers would have to restrain him), and Udonis Haslem delivered an uncontested dunk that helped Miami pull away.
During a postgame news conference, Rondo was asked about the contact.
"It was obvious, [but] I really can't comment on that particular play," Rondo said.
Veteran guard Ray Allen, who was seated next to Rondo, didn't mind potentially incurring the league's wrath for voicing displeasure with the officiating.
"We all thought he got hit," Allen said. "I'll say it."
Here are the sobering statistics for Boston fans: The Celtics were whistled for 33 infractions (three players fouled out, including Paul Pierce late in regulation) and the Heat attempted 47 free throws (although they missed 16 of them, which kept things interesting into overtime). Conversely, Miami was whistled for 18 fouls and the Celtics attempted 29 free throws.
Hard as it may be, let's look past those numbers. The digits that deserve our attention are Rondo's 44-10-8 (and just three turnovers) after playing all 53 minutes in what amounted to a must-win game for Boston.
Yes, it was a crushing defeat, one that leaves the Celtics on life support given the fact that 94.3 percent of teams down 0-2 lose the series. No amount of silver linings will take the sting out of letting this one slip away.
Regardless, Rondo's effort deserves special attention. It's not hyperbole to call it one of the greatest performances in playoff history.
It simply deserved a better ending.
"[Rondo] was absolutely phenomenal," Rivers said. "He put the whole team on his shoulders. It's tough to have him play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did basically everything right."
For all his recent triple-double efforts, what Rondo did on Wednesday might have been the most spectacular performance of his career. He attacked when there was space, but did most of his damage from the perimeter. You know, the spot that most teams still think he can't burn them from.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has heaped nonstop praise on Rondo this week, and Wednesday's effort showed he was deserving of it.
"I have no idea, I'll be honest," Spoelstra said when asked how one defends Rondo. "We've tried almost everything with him. The conventional wisdom [says] he's got to beat you with the jump shot [or] beat you by not getting all the other guys going. They only had 15 assists, and you would never think that he would have that kind of a monster game.
"What it speaks to is his competitiveness -- he's a competitor. He's a basketball player. Whatever the team needs, he's going to do. And so, somehow, we were able to withstand his incredible game."
The Heat were content to sag off Rondo and allow the likes of LeBron James and Wade to wander around creating havoc for the Celtics' offense. But every time a defender went under a screen, Rondo stepped up near the elbow and buried a jumper.
Entering Wednesday's game, Rondo had never made more than six shots in a game from 15-plus feet. In Game 2, he made 10.
"On film, they were going under in Game 1 to an extreme point," Rivers said. "What Rondo did, I thought, he just stepped up to the elbow, where he shoots a high percentage, and he just took the shots. And I thought that's what he had to do. He has to keep doing that."
Poor Mario Chalmers, who had a fine offensive outing of his own, could only shrug when asked about Rondo's big effort.
"I didn't get to watch too much," deadpanned Chalmers. "He showed why he's one of the best point guards in the league. Any time a person has 44 and 10, eight boards, they did a good job."
Good job? Talk about an understatement.
"Rondo was absolutely amazing," James said. Echoed Wade, "He played an unbelievable game."
Yet few losses are remembered as unbelievably amazing. This one was unbelievably agonizing.
"[Rondo] played his heart out, he carried the load for us offensively, he shot the ball, he did everything we could possibly ask for in him," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. "You just hate to see an effort like that really go to waste."
Forty-four, 10 and eight. A waste. That doesn't seem right. But this Celtics team has never cared much for individual numbers, it's always about the bottom line.
Even still, we should take a minute to savor what Rondo did on this night.
"He's an incredible talent, an incredible player," Keyon Dooling said. "He's an incredible basketball mind. We're really playing with a very special player. He's doing some things that only some elite players have done in our league."
Things that deserve gold stars, not asterisks.