Rajon Rondo is almost certainly going to miss at least one game of the Boston Celtics' first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks after bumping into referee Marc Davis at the end of Sunday's loss. The NBA takes a few rules very seriously, and contact with an official is one of them. There is no wiggle room.
Rondo is the Celtics' best perimeter player and perhaps most important player (with a nod toward Kevin Garnett), but the C's have survived this season when the point guard has been out thanks to strong play by young Avery Bradley.
Boston was 31-22 in games Rondo played this season (.584) and 8-5 when he was out (.615). But where the problem lies is that Ray Allen, the Celtics' ace two-guard and only feared deep shooter, is banged up, missing Game 1 against the Hawks with ankle pain. His status for Game 2 on Tuesday is unknown.
Bradley can help stop the bleeding at one of the two backcourt positions, but certainly not both. That's a problem, because Boston's only other credible guard is Keyon Dooling, who can defend and stroke the shot but won't be feared at all by Atlanta. A double-absence of Rondo and Allen could force Doc Rivers to play big with natural small forward Mickael Pietrus at shooting guard and Bradley at the point.
According to NBA.com's plus-minus numbers, Paul Pierce, Pietrus and Bradley were on the court together for about 189 minutes during the regular season. That's not all necessarily with Pietrus at the two-guard -- some of these could also include Rondo. But the unit has been successful, with a +37 over that span, or +9 per 48 minutes. The unit is certainly defensively adept, as Bradley and Pietrus are plus defenders.
The problem would be on offense, exactly what it was on Sunday -- even with Rondo, an incredible playmaker. Without Rondo or Allen, the Celtics would be relying heavily on Pierce and Garnett to have strong offensive games, and for Bradley, Pietrus, Dooling and Brandon Bass to hit their open shots, something that rarely happened in Game 1.
Hopefully for Boston's sake, Rondo is only out for one game, and Allen is on his way back to the court.