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Injured Rajon Rondo can only help Bulls from the bench, for now

April 22, 2017 GMT

CHICAGO — Injured in the midst of his surprising postseason revitalization, Rajon Rondo would not rule out returning before the Celtics-Bulls playoff series concludes despite being given a “couple of weeks” recovery time.

For now, the former Celtics and current Bulls point guard said the right thumb he fractured and played through in the second half of Game 2 hurts too much to pick up a fork, let alone stick one in Chicago’s season. His team still leads the Eastern Conference first-rounder, 2-1, after all, but the performance of his replacements in the Celtics’ 104-87 victory last night finally made this look like a No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup.

Following two vintage Rondo performances at the Garden, Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams combined for eight points, seven turnovers and three assists and left the Bulls — including their unofficial assistant coach — scrambling for answers heading into tomorrow’s Game 4.

“I’m going to go home tonight and watch film and see what we can do better,” Rondo said. “It was a tough night. We didn’t defend the 3’s as well as we had in Games 1 and 2. I think they had 37 attempts and made 17. We’ve got to get those attempts down.

“As far as the mental edge, they might become a little more confident. They won’t be (down) as much as they were the last couple nights because of the losses instead of a win. We’re going back to the drawing board tomorrow, make adjustments and go from there (tomorrow).”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens did the adjusting in Game 3 with a surprising lineup switch, going small and giving lightly used wing Gerald Green his first start of the season in place of power forward Amir Johnson. The move worked, as the Celtics jumped out to a big early lead and dominated with the smaller lineup again in the third quarter.

Now it’s on Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to adjust to Stevens’ adjustments. And though Rondo downplayed the significance of his absence, saying the Celtics “just played better,” Chicago is going to need to adjust to playing without him for at least the next three games.

Hoiberg put a possible 7-10 day timeline on Rondo’s recovery before the game, which gives the Bulls at least a glimmer of hope the guard could play in a potential Game 7 at the Garden a week from tomorrow.

“It’s kind of hard to tell,” Rondo said. “I’ll check on it every two days. I can’t even pick up a ball right now. I can’t even use a fork or my thumb right now. I’ll take a couple days and see how it feels.”

The Bulls’ Dwyane Wade remembered the dislocated elbow Rondo played with when Wade’s former team, the Miami Heat, beat the Celtics in the 2010-11 playoffs.

“He is very tough,” Wade said. “Before this last injury, he had another (wrist) injury he was dealing with. Obviously seeing him today in a cast and not on the floor, it’s something he has to take care of. I definitely think he will do everything in his power to get back on the floor if he can. But that is not something we can look at, focus on. Behind the scenes, Rondo is going to work his butt off to get back on the basketball floor.”