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Posted at 02:48 PM ET, 05/31/2012

After wasting Rajon Rondo’s Herculean effort, are the Celtics done?

Rajon Rondo’s best wasn’t good enough. (Andrew Innerarity - Reuters)
Rajon Rondo played a nearly flawless game Wednesday night.

He hit 16 of 24 shots for a game-high 44 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out 10 assists. Rondo was still draining deep three-pointers long after Paul Pierce had left the floor to head to the locker room.

But it wasn’t enough. The Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 115-111 in overtime to protect their home floor once again and take a 2-0 series lead.

Many of the Thursday morning headlines ponder what more Rondo could have done. The answer, quite frankly, is nothing. He played every minute, scored all 12 of his team’s points in overtime and put forth a game for the ages. But if Boston still can’t seal the deal with Rondo playing out of his mind, the rest of the Celtics need to find a way to match their point guard’s intensity and effort — otherwise, this series may already be over.

“He really played his heart out and carried the load for us offensively,” Pierce said of Rondo. “He shot the ball, did everything possible you could ask for in him. You just hate to see an effort like that really go to waste.”

Whether Rondo’s unprecedented playoff performance truly becomes a footnote or instead inspires the Celtics to claw their way back into the series is up to Boston’s Big 3 and its bench.

Kevin Garnett didn’t get the job done in OT. (Lynne Sladky - AP)
Pierce scored 21 points but fouled out for the second time in three games and missed all five of his three-point attempts. Kevin Garnett has 18 points and 8 rebounds but was too passive in overtime where he missed both of his shots and committed a turnover and a foul. And while Ray Allen showed grit scoring 13 points — including a clutch three-pointer late in regulation — while playing through a lingering ankle injury, he struggled on the defensive end and failed to finish at the rim on multiple occasions. Then there was Boston’s bench, which was outscored by Miami’s 25-7.

The other glaring numbers on the Game 2 stat sheet were the fouls (33 for Boston, 18 for Miami) and free throws attempted (a 47-29 edge for the Heat). After the game Celtics Coach Doc Rivers noted that LeBron James took only five fewer free throws than Boston’s team total. And while the officiating wasn’t top notch — particularly on Dwyane Wade’s undetected slap to the face of Rondo in overtime — it also speaks to Miami’s willingness to drive to the basket down the stretch instead of settling for contested jump shots.

“It’s kind of irrelevant in that we lost,” Rondo said of his performance. “Simple as that.”

Now Boston must regroup for Game 3 at home to prove their aging corps isn’t on its way to irrelevance, too.

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