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Rondo grateful, confident about Game 3

He feels as though Celtics ‘won the series already’

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Rajon Rondo has had to answer for actions that resulted in his one-game suspension.

WALTHAM - Rajon Rondo believes he has learned from the mistake that earned him a suspension for Game 2 of the Celtics’ playoff series with the Hawks.

Rondo, who will return to the lineup for Game 3 Friday night, made contact with official Marc Davis in the final minute of the opening game Sunday while arguing a call.

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His plan for the future?

“Just try and not let my emotions get the best of me,’’ Rondo said before practice Thursday. “But I’m an emotional player. I try to keep my composure and my emotions to myself and quiet. It was a heat-of-the-battle moment. I wanted to win. And people make mistakes.’’

Rondo expressed gratitude to his teammates for rallying to an 87-80 victory in Atlanta Tuesday to even the series, 1-1. Still, Rondo was not overly contrite.

“The end result is all that matters,’’ said Rondo, who in February received a two-game suspension for throwing a ball at an official. “If it’d been a different result, it would have been difficult. But, since we won, I felt like we won the series already.’’

Asked if he felt responsible for placing the Celtics in a difficult position, Rondo replied, “I’m not on trial. I didn’t do anything - but, you know, we still got the win. So, I’m important to this team. Everyone is important to this team, one way or the other.

“Obviously, I’m the starting point guard for this team. But that’s what guys get paid to do. We’ve got a 15-guy roster. Guys stepped up, they played well. Regardless of how we got the win, we got the win.’’

Rondo said he was relieved after the Celtics overcame an 11-point deficit for the victory. He said he could not reveal the location where he viewed the contest, but it must have been close to Philips Arena in Atlanta.

“I think I ran down the tunnel and gave KG [Kevin Garnett] the first hug, told him thank you, appreciate everything you guys done for me,’’ Rondo said. “Obviously, they won by themselves but they said, ‘We got this one for you.’ I felt like I was part of it, it felt good. It changed the series.

“The night the incident happened, they said, ‘We’ll get it for you.’ I was hoping I wouldn’t get suspended.’’

Coach Doc Rivers said he hopes Rondo returns the favor to his teammates.

“We didn’t have a party for him or anything,’’ Rivers said. “The way to do it the best is come out in Game 3 and have a terrific game.

“But we want to make sure he doesn’t do too much - just do what he does. Sometimes I think guys miss a game, they come out the next game and they really want to help the team, instead of just playing their game.’’

Rivers said the response to the suspension by the 26-year-old guard indicated emotional growth.

“I’ve seen him shaking hands, he [shook] a lot of hands, so that was good,’’ Rivers said of Rondo’s actions following Game 2. “He was very happy, thanking guys.

“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, his head hanging down, down on himself. I’m sure he still was, but he showed emotion toward the other guys.

“I keep saying, you get the luxury of watching him grow up in front of us, and so that’s a step forward. I always think his intentions are right - that doesn’t mean he does the right things all the time. I’d rather have a guy that, to me, has good intentions than guys who are just thinking about themselves purely.

“When you see things happen, you view it as a selfish act - but I don’t think he did it selfishly. It just turned into a selfish act.’’

But Rondo said the experience will not alter the way he performs.

“I don’t have anything to prove. Why would I have anything to prove?’’ Rondo said. “I just want to win, that’s it.

“I’m confused about why you guys would think I have anything to prove. I mean, this is a game I’ve been playing my entire life. The world knows what I can do.

“I’m going to go out there and do what I do best and be the best point guard in the NBA. I’m going to go out there and play the same way I play every night.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.
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