- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Rajon Rondo stressed his gratitude to his Boston Celtics teammates for pulling out a Game 2 victory without him Tuesday night in Atlanta, but stopped short of apologizing for his actions that led to a one-game suspension after bumping a referee in Game 1.
"I try not to let my emotions get the best of me, but I'm an emotional player," Rondo told reporters Thursday at the team's practice facility. "I try to keep my composure and my emotions to myself, but it was a heat-of-the-battle moment and I wanted to win. We make mistakes. I'm not on trial, or anything.
"We still got the win," he added when asked if he understood how detrimental it was for the team to not have him in a key playoff game. "I'm important to the team -- everybody is important to the team, one way or another. Obviously, I'm the starting point guard for this team, but there are guys that get paid to do this. It's a 15-man roster. Guys stepped up and played well. Regardless of how we got the win, we got the win."
Rondo might not have seemed contrite Thursday, maintaining a brash confidence in front of the microphones, but his postgame actions Tuesday suggested he was genuinely thrilled that his teammates won without him.
"I think I ran down the tunnel and gave (Kevin Garnett) the first hug, told him, 'Thank you.' I appreciate everything you guys have done for me," Rondo said. "Obviously, they won it for themselves, but they told me, 'We got this one for you.' That felt good. It felt like I was a part of it. It changed the series."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers described how Rondo waited outside the team bus after the game to shake hands with his teammates and thank them for pulling out a pivotal 87-80 victory, which evened the series 1-1.
"He was very happy, thanking guys as we were getting on the bus," Rivers said. "That's great. I don't know if he would have done that two years ago. He would have been thankful, but he would have been in the back of the bus with his head down -- down on himself. Instead, I'm sure he still was (down on himself), but he showed emotion towards the other guys. I keep saying it, you guys get the luxury, including me, of watching him grow up in front of us. That's a step there."
Rivers admitted it's tough to get a read on Rondo, but stressed that in both the emotional outburst in Game 1 and his thankfulness toward the team after Game 2, the point guard genuinely meant well.
"I always think his intentions are right," Rivers said. "That doesn't mean he does the right things all the time. I'd rather have a guy that, to me, had good intentions than guys that are just thinking about themselves, purely. When those acts happen, you view them as a selfish act, but I don't think he did it selfishly. It just turned into a selfish act."
Rivers said that ultimately the best way to show his thanks would be for Rondo to come out and carry the team in Game 3 Friday night.
"Well, he just told them, 'Thank you,' that's all you can do. He didn't have a party for them or anything," Rivers said, joking.
Rondo added, "You learn from your mistakes. It's not the end of the world. I only got suspended one game. The great thing about it is the series is 1-1 and we're in Boston."
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