Playoff Rondo, a sad reminder of what we're missing

Jared Wickerham

The 2013 NBA Playoffs just aren't the same without Rajon Rondo, who is sitting after tearing his ACL in January. We look back at some of Rondo's best playoff moments.

Somewhere, Rajon Rondo is sipping on a Shirley Temple and beating some kid at Connect Four. Maybe he's dreaming of putting on some roller skates again or solving an algebra equation in his head.

Whatever Rondo's doing, he's not getting ready for Game 3 because of a torn ACL, and that makes us sad. The playoffs just aren't the same without Rondo's icy stares, cutting wit and big-game performances.

Here's a handful of our favorite games and moments over the years.

MAY 9, 2010: CAVALIERS AT CELTICS, GAME 4

Fewer than 48 hours after the Cavs crushed the Celtics by 29 points, I spent the morning of Game 4 on a radio show talking about what would happen after the Celtics lost the series and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hit free agency. This was it. The end of an era, thanks for the memories, kind of game.

By day's end, with everyone else in foul trouble, Rondo had 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists -- only Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson had recorded similar postseason lines -- and the C's had new life. They won their next five games, knocking off the Cavs and taking a 3-0 lead on Orlando in the conference finals before ultimately losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. Pierce and Allen re-upped after the season, and the Celtics turned their three-year window into a six-year run.

It can be argued that Rondo had better playoff games, but none were more significant. Not only did the Celtics stay together long past their expected expiration date, but LeBron James never won another game as a Cavalier. Rondo basically stopped time and rewrote history.

MAY 30, 2012: CELTICS AT HEAT, GAME 2

From a pure numbers standpoint, this was Rondo's finest performance. Playing every minute of an overtime game to the point of exhaustion, he scored 44 points on 16-for-24 shooting with ten assists, eight rebounds and only three turnovers. He also got whacked in the face on a late drive with no call that still has Tommy Heinsohn steaming.

Afterward, the accolades rang down:

LeBron: "He's a unique player. He's an unbelievable player."

Dwyane Wade: "There was nothing you could do about it."

Erik Spoelstra: "I have no idea (how to stop him). I'll be honest."

Rondo: "It's irrelevant. We lost. It's as simple as that."

MAY 7, 2011: HEAT AT CELTICS, GAME 3

"All of us sort of looked at each other like, ‘What's he doing out here?' Is he being smart right now?" -- Kevin Garnett

Down 2-0, the Celtics were on their way to getting back in the series with Miami when Wade took Rondo down, sending his elbow crashing to the Garden floor with a sickening thud. Rondo went back to the locker room with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. With zero fanfare, he walked back out to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. He just appeared and then checked back into the game.

His left arm was essentially useless, but he still grabbed a rebound with his good one and made one-armed passes the rest of the quarter. He even managed to get a dunk. For all the s*** Rondo takes about being disengaged during the long winter months of the regular season, moments like this are why he's built up an enormous amount of goodwill with his coaches and teammates over the years.

This was Cyborg Rondo. After the game I distinctly remember people saying that he'll never get booed in this town again. Funny how that worked out.

JUNE 3, 2012: HEAT AT CELTICS, GAME 5

MAY 26, 2012: PHILADELPHIA AT BOSTON, GAME 7

As only Rondo can do, he developed a knack for recording triple-doubles while playing some of his worst games. Like in Game 7 against the Sixers, when he had 18 points, ten rebounds, ten assists and seven turnovers. But when Pierce fouled out with about four minutes to go, Rondo took over, nailing a long jumper and a huge three-pointer in the final minutes to send the C's to the conference finals.

This had not been a great postseason for Rondo up to this point. In the first round, he got kicked out of Game 1 in Atlanta and suspended for Game 2 after bumping an official. He had his moments to be sure, but he had yet to put his stamp on a series.

He was also having a tough night before that outburst. However, Doc Rivers told him to get over it, and Rondo told his coach he wasn't mad at anybody but himself. That's one of his great strengths and also one of his greatest weakness.

2009, RONDO VS. DERRICK ROSE

The Celtics entered the 2009 playoffs without Kevin Garnett, but still felt as though they had a legitimate chance to do some damage. The key was getting past the Bulls in the first round with a modicum of drama and saving their energy for the next series.

Seven overtimes later, they emerged with a 4-3 series win, but it came at a heavy cost. They had nothing left by the end of the next series with the Magic and ultimately lost an uninspired Game 7 on their home floor.

One of the main subplots of that series was Rondo's matchup with Derrick Rose, who made his playoff debut by scoring 36 points in a Game 1 upset. Rondo even admitted afterward that Rose was too much for him, but then Rondo was too much for Rose. Over the first five games, Rondo averaged 24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

The Rondo vs. Rose matchup never really materialized over the years, as they've met just nine times since that playoff encounter. That one series, though, was epic.

"I'd like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does." - Mike D'Antoni on Rajon Rondo in 2011

APRIL 24, 2011: CELTICS AT KNICKS, GAME 4

Mike D'Antoni has a long history of speaking in an offhanded sarcastic way, but even the cynical New York press was surprised when he threw out this gem about Rondo before Game 4:

"I'd like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does."

Whoops.

Rondo answered D'Antoni's criticism on the floor when he went for 21 points and 12 assists. In a four-game sweep, he scored 76 points (on 50 percent shooting) and handed out 48 assists, while recording the requisite triple-double in Game 3.

Told of D'Antoni's comments later, Rondo shrugged and said, "Everyone has their own opinion."

JUNE 17, 2008: LAKERS AT CELTICS, GAME 6

During the 2008 playoffs, Rivers called on Sam Cassell and Eddie House when Rondo's shaky jumper became a problem, but in the final game of the season, Rondo was brilliant. He took the Lakers apart with a 21-7-8 performance that also featured six steals and just one turnover.

This was validation for KG, Pierce and Allen, but it was also Rondo's introduction to the big stage and the fantastic You Got Rondo'd campaign.

Get healthy, Rajon. The playoffs aren't the same without you or your backward headband.

More from SB Nation:

LeBron's mad he didn't win DPOY

Z-Bo strikes back, and the Grizzlies stay alive

Thursday's NBA action in GIFs

10 reasons why the Celtics still have a chance

What the 2011 NBA draft can teach us about 2013's class

Derrick Rose drama reaches breaking point

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