The Boston Celtics confirmed (per ESPNBoston.com) during the second half of their game Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat that All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee late in Boston’s double-overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Rondo was leading the league with 11.1 assists per game in 38 games this season. He was also the Celtics’ third-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game and was fourth on the club with his 5.6 rebounds per night.
He was also slated to start the All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference in the Feb. 17 All-Star Game at Houston.
Boston came into Sunday’s game with a two-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Without Rondo, the question becomes: Can the Celtics hold off the 76ers and other teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack to secure what would be the club’s sixth straight postseason appearance?
The 76ers would appear to have the best chance of overhauling the Celtics for the No. 8 seed. Philadelphia was part of a major trade during the summer, along with the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic.
The massive four-team, 12-player trade saw the 76ers part ways with Andre Iguodala to Denver and Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic to Orlando and get back Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic.
However, Bynum has missed the entire season because of balky knees. The good news for Philadelphia—and conversely, the bad news for Boston—is that Bynum may be ready to return by the end of February.
PhillyBurbs.com reported Sunday that Bynum is making progress toward a return and said, barring another setback, he could make his delayed debut for the 76ers late next month.
There are two other teams that could prove troublesome over the season half of the season to the Celtics as they attempt to hang on to a playoff spot without Rondo.
The Detroit Pistons are 16-19 since getting off to a dreadful 0-8 start and are just four games behind Boston in the East.
The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, are 12-9 since hitting their low-water mark at 4-19 on Dec. 12. Toronto currently trails the Celtics by 4.5 games in the conference standings.
Can Boston still make the playoffs without Rondo? It will mean getting a Herculean effort from Avery Bradley, who is only recently returned from shoulder surgery, and likely giving more minutes to reserve guard Jason Terry.
It’s possible, but unlikely, that the Celtics can hang onto a playoff spot because, just as they are getting more banged up, other teams in the East are either jelling or getting healthy at the same time.
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