In the 2017 NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics were the number one seed, and they were facing former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and the Chicago Bulls. The Celtics were expected to roll past the Bulls, but after Isaiah Thomas received the news of the death of his sister before the series, things shifted. Rondo and the Bulls quickly went up 2-0 in the series, and the Cs were in trouble. The Celtics were ultimately bailed out by Rondo getting injured, which led to them taking the series in six games.
What most people forget is that the magical run to the Eastern Conference Finals that the Celtics went on with Thomas would have never happened if Rondo stayed healthy. Now we know why the Bulls seemed to have an edge as Rondo outsmarted Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
In a recent interview on JJ Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three, Rondo shared insight into how he planned to outcoach Brad Stevens. Rondo mentioned how he worked with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade before the series to have plays that the Boston Celtics had not seen. The goal was to prevent Stevens from making adjustments in the fourth quarter.
Rajon Rondo’s strategy paid off — for him and the Bulls, not the Boston Celtics
The strategy from Rondo ultimately worked as the Bulls took Game 1 106-102 and Game 2 111-97. People forget that the Boston Celtics appeared to be dead after Game 2 as they looked outmatched.
Rondo’s injury that occurred in the second half of Game 2 was a perfect example of an injury shifting a series, as the Bulls never recovered and lost four straight. Rondo has been outspoken that he feels if he had not been injured, the Bulls would have swept the Celtics, and I agree.
That’s ultimately why luck is such a big factor in sports.