The Bulls will now be an “Alpha’’ down.
The team announced during their Friday morning shootaround that Rajon Rondo suffered a fracture to his right thumb and will miss at least the rest of the first-round playoff series against the top-seeded Boston Celtics.
According to coach Fred Hoiberg, the injury occurred in the third quarter of Game 2, but Rondo continued to play through it in that Bulls win, thinking it was just a jammed or a mild sprain. By Thursday night, however, it wasn’t improving, and an x-ray confirmed the bad news.
“It shows the toughness of Rajon Rondo to continue to fight through and battle and play pretty much the rest of that game,’’ Hoiberg said. “[Thursday] night, you could tell in talking to him that something wasn’t right. Everybody who plays this game jams fingers and thumbs all the time. But he said this one was a little different. So to get the news [Thursday] night was very tough.’’
As is the task of now disposing of the No. 1 seeded Celtics in the best-of-seven series, even with the Bulls up 2-0.
The 31-year-old Rondo had seemingly been dipped in the fountain of youth through the first two games of the series, causing havoc for his old Boston franchise. In Game 1, Rondo only had 12 points, but grabbed eight rebounds and handed out six assists, pushing the action offensively.
It was his Game 2 that really seemed to put the rest of the series in doubt as far as Boston was concerned, however, with Rondo not only falling a rebound short of the triple-double, but his defense against Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas was stellar.
In Game 1, Jimmy Butler had to switch over and guard Thomas in key moments of the game, but on Tuesday, it was Rondo handling the duties most of the game, allowing Butler to work other parts of his game.
That’s what seemed to concern Hoiberg the most heading into tonight’s Game 3.
“Yeah, it is [a concern],’’ Hoiberg said of the defense. “Rajon’s experience in these types of settings is invaluable. To miss that now with him being out, most likely for the rest of the series, it does put some extra responsibility on some guys. Again, we’ve been through this. We had other guys that have had to step up in players’ absences. Dwyane [Wade], when he went out a couple weeks ago, we had guys step in and fill in admirably. It’s going to have to be the same with Rajon out now.’’
Jerian Grant will get the start at point guard, while Michael Carter-Williams will lead the second unit. Cameron Payne is expected to now be active for tonight, just in case. But expect Jimmy “Point Guard’’ to be in full effect tonight.
When Rondo missed three straight game at the end of the season, Butler stepped up as facilitator, with the Bulls going 2-1 in those games and Butler averaging 23 points, 5.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds, as well as a triple-double in the win against Philadelphia.
“If I’ve done it this season, I’ve got to be pretty comfortable with it,’’ Butler said of the point guard duties. “I’ve done it a lot. I’ll be alright, man. It’s not about me. We’ve got young guys that are stepping in, we’ve got to make sure that they’re comfortable. I’ve played enough minutes to where I’ll be OK.
“We want Jerian and Cam and whoever else may play to know that it’s OK to go out there and hoop, man. Play basketball. This is the reason that you’re here, to hoop. It’s the playoffs. This is what you wake up for every day.’’