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NBA Playoff Recap - Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 4

(4) Boston 97, (1) Cleveland 87 - Series tied, 2-2


Three numbers never spoke so loudly: 29. 18. 13.

Going into Sunday afternoon's latest installment of an entirely unpredictable playoff series, only two men had ever scored at least 29 points, snatched at least 18 boards, and dished out a minimum of 13 assists in the NBA postseason. One of them was Oscar Robertson, who went for 32, 19 and 13 in 1963. The other was a fellow by the name of Wilt Chamberlain, who produced a ridiculous 29, 36 and 13 in 1967. In the 43 years since Wilt went wild for the Philadelphia 76ers, not a single soul had been able to post a stat line with that level of heft and hardwood heroism. In almost half a century of professional playoff basketball, not one man had cracked this barrier.

Not Kareem. Not Bird.

Not Magic. Not Duncan.

Not Barkley.

Not Malone (Moses or Karl).

Not McHale or Parish.

Not Wes Unseld, Jerry West, or Rick Barry.

Not Bill Walton, Julius Erving, or Elvin Hayes.

Not George Gervin, John Havlicek, or Adrian Dantley.

Not Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, or Shaq.

Not Stockton, Isiah Thomas, or Tiny Archibald.

Not Scottie Pippen.

Not Kobe Bryant.

Not even Michael Jordan.

And oh, don't forget: Not LeBron James, either.

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No, the man who rose above the tumult and the shouting at TD Garden in Boston was one of the smallest guys on the parquet floor, a man who came up quite big for his flagging ballclub. Rajon Rondo became the third man in NBA playoff history to reach the 29-18-13 club, as the Boston Celtics evened their Eastern Conference semifinal showdown with the top-seeded Cavs. The win ensures a Game 6 in Beantown on Thursday night, which means that Cleveland will need to win Game 5 on Tuesday in Ohio.

There's really no sentence, no assemblage of words, that can do justice to what Rondo did on Sunday... and to what he's done in three of the first four games in the series. Boston's Paul Pierce scored only nine points in Game 4 and has been AWOL for this entire competition against Cleveland. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have been good in spots for the Celtics, but the two veteran stars are far from attaining what anyone could rightfully view as consistency. Boston continuously got to the rim in Game 4 against the Cavs' defense, but that was only because Rondo never stopped finding a passing lane. Coach Doc Rivers' point guard is taking the term "floor leader" to new heights this series; Rondo's doing all the dirty work for Boston while continuing to get his teammates involved and also muscling up on the glass. So much of what the Celtics are manufacturing is almost 100 percent traceable to Rondo; without a slick bounce pass to Pierce for a dunk inside the two-minute mark, the C's might not have re-established a five-point cushion (90-85) after the Cavs used a 12-2 run to slice Boston's lead to 86-84.

29. 18. 13. And clutch plays to boot, just when his team needed them.

Rajon Rondo is carrying a proud franchise on his back. Can he do the deed two more times, or will his mates - particularly Pierce - come to his aid?

The next few days will be very interesting indeed. The NBA has only one dramatic second-round series, but oh, it is shaping up to be a classic as Game 5 awaits.

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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