The Boston Celtics paid homage to Rajon Rondo's services for eight years with a video tribute at the end of the first quarter that nearly brought the All-Star point guard to tears.
But there was no crying involved in Rondo's first quarter, where he was 6-for-6 and made three 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes alone. Rondo finished with a season-high 29 points, made a career-high five 3-pointers and the Dallas Mavericks cruised to a 119-101 win in Rondo's return to Boston.
It was Rondo's first trip to Boston since the blockbuster trade in December that sent him and rookie center Dwight Powell to Dallas for Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and Jameer Nelson. If there were any jitters for Rondo, who won a title with the Celtics in 2008, they didn't show in the first quarter.
Rondo scored the Mavericks' first 10 points of the game, including making two 3-pointers. By the end of the quarter, he nearly scored as many points as the entire Celtics team combined. They finished with 17 points after a 33 percent shooting display.
Thankfully for the Mavericks, Rondo's offensive performance was enough early on to keep Boston in check all night. Rondo was the only Dallas starter to shoot 50 percent from the floor to go with six rebounds and five assists. Dirk Nowitzki had a 7-of-19 shooting night, finishing with 17 points, while Monta Ellis had a strong second half and ended with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
The last time Dallas and Boston squared off on Nov. 3, Rondo was in Boston. Dallas built the lead to as big as 30 points that was cut to as little as a single point. Avery Bradley and Jeff Green were the ones who willed the Celtics back in that game, and on Friday, that was nearly the same result.
Dallas had a 28-point lead at one point tonight, but the Celtics cut the lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter behind a scoring frenzy from Bradley, who scored 17 points in the final stanza on 7-of-9 shooting.
Four starters in total scored in double figures for the Celtics, including 18 points from Green and 17 points from young big man Tyler Zeller.
But the night belonged to Rondo, who had his best offensive performance of the season as the Mavericks moved to 5-2 since the trade. And for any concerns regarding the possible decline in offensive efficiency with this Dallas team, they can be put to rest for awhile. Dallas has scored over 100 points all but one time since the trade, and that was 99 points in the win over the depleted San Antonio Spurs in Rondo's debut.
If Rondo can get his jump shot going, this offense can still be on pace to do great things. Either this is a sign of things to come, or a complete aberration, depending on how you see it. But for a guy who has never made more than four 3-pointers in a game, that might be asking a bit much.
As for the three guys traded to Boston? None of them started, they combined for 11 points on 2-of-15 shooting, and Brandan Wright scored none of those points or took any of those shots.
Maybe the Mavs can swing a trade to get Wright back for a 2025 second-round pick.
But right now, Dallas is looking strong at 24-10. They head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers on Sunday, who will be without LeBron James, though it'll be another good test for Rondo battling Kyrie Irving.