Rajon Rondo lives up to his ‘Playoff Rondo’ nickname in Game 1

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Rajon Rondo lives up to his ‘Playoff Rondo’ nickname in Game 1

Rajon Rondo seems opposed to being called “Playoff Rondo.”Only Rondo knows for sure why.But in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, Rondo p

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Rajon Rondo seems opposed to being called “Playoff Rondo.”

Only Rondo knows for sure why.

But in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, Rondo proved why he has earned that distinction. His play was stellar once again for the Lakers and his leadership was on display even while on the bench.

Rondo’s inspired performance in the first half was a big reason why the Lakers rolled out to a 17-point halftime lead, on their way to a 116-98 win for Los Angeles over the Miami Heat at the AdvertHealth Arena in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near here.

Rondo scored seven points and added three rebounds, four assists and one block in helping the Lakers open a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 2 Friday night.

“You don’t get these moments a lot,” LeBron James said of why Rondo steps up in the playoffs. “It’s been over a decade since he’s been in the Finals. I think he just cherishes the moment, but also just playing the game that he loves to play in a cerebral way, a determined way and a championship way.”

The only concern for the Lakers was when Rondo was hit in the eye by Heat guard Kendrick Nunn late in the third quarter, leaving the Lakers point guard down on the court for few seconds. But Rondo was fine and returned midway through the final quarter and the Lakers holding a 20-point lead.

“He was the steady, veteran Rondo that we’ve been seeing this entire playoff,” Lakers forward Markieff Morris said on a videoconference after the game. “We call him ‘Playoff Rondo.’ You can call anybody ‘Playoff,’ ‘Playoff,’ but he’s steady like that all year-round.

“I feel like in the playoffs everybody goes up another notch. He’s been here a million times. He’s used to the moment.”

When Danny Green was called for foul on the Heat’s Jimmy Butler in the first half and began to argue the point, Rondo turned to his teammate and said, “stop gambling,” which was referring to Green reaching on the play. The Lakers asked for a review on the play and got it overturned and Green’s foul was taken away.

But Rondo wanted to make sure his teammates stayed locked into the game, into their defensive assignments, and that they stop complaining and stay composed.

At the start of the second half, while on sitting on the bench, Rondo yelled out to James, “LB, Jimmy ain’t moving.” Rondo was talking about Butler, who had rolled his ankle late in the second quarter and was moving around the court slowly.

James shook his head at Rondo and went back on the attack.

Those are the qualities Rondo brings to playoff games — a coach on the court who is always alert.

Rondo has been in this spot before, having won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008 over the Lakers and having lost in the Finals to the Lakers in 2010.

“When Bron is out, [Rondo’s] pretty much commanding that floor, making everybody get in their spots, making sure everybody is where they need to be before we even run the play,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said via Zoom. “That’s just Rondo. He does that for us. He quarterbacks for us and gets everybody in position.”


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