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LEEInks list: Boston’s best individual performances of 2010

05.28.10 at 6:54 am ET
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Rajon Rondo's performances in the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Cavaliers stole the spotlight from LeBron James. (AP)

After giving you lists of the most uplifting wins and frustrating losses of 2010 last week, we thought it would be nice to look even deeper — at the individual performances that make these games so fun to watch.

While we have had our share of joy and heartache — from the Patriots and Bruins losing in ignominious fashion, to the Red Sox’ up-and-down season, and the Celtics’ surprising run at another banner — there have been some terrific performances along the way.

So, whether or not each team has given us a good return on our emotional investment, the players themselves have had quite a year. Here is a list of the best performances of 2010.

10. April 26: The Varitek show

After opening up a quick 5-0 lead after three innings, the Red Sox looked poised to coast to an early season victory against Toronto. Then Josh Beckett headed to the mound in the third and quickly erased any thoughts of success. After allowing six runs in the third, he could not get out of the fourth inning, allowing two more runs to put the Sox back in a precarious hole. However, the Sox offense was ready to pick up the slack, and with the help of the resurgent Jason Varitek, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run singles, the Sox outlasted Toronto 13-12.

9. Jan. 3: Edelman emerges

When Wes Welker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 17, the Patriots faced their biggest setback of the season. Without his No. 1 target, Tom Brady would have to look for a new selection of guys to get the ball to during crucial times of the game. No worries, as rookie wide receiver Julian Edelman more than stepped in for the injured Welker, catching 10 balls for 103 yards — the first 100-yard game of his career. In typical Welker fashion, Edelman proved he could be an elusive slot receiver, darting and weaving his way through the Texans defense in New England’s 34-27 loss.

8. May 3: Rondo assists C’s past LeBron in Game 2

After letting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals get away, the underdog Celtics looked poised to take control of the series in Game 2 in Cleveland. Rajon Rondo continued his playoff brilliance with a dominating 13-point, 19-assist night, tying a franchise record for most assists in a playoff game along the way. After the C’s comfortable 104-86 victory, many people realized this team, and most notably its young point guard, was here to stay.

7. May 20: Lester goes the distance

A night after Clay Buchholz dominated the AL Central-leading Twins for eight innings, Jon Lester went the distance, allowing only one run in his best performance of the season. After giving up four runs in five innings in his last outing against the Twins, Lester looked as good as ever, pounding the strike zone and striking out nine while only throwing 103 pitches in Boston’s 6-2 win. Having faced the minimum 12 batters in the first four innings of the game, he looked in control throughout and gave the Sox a much needed shot in the arm.

6. May 5: Tuukka time

After giving up an early goal to Arron Asham of the Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Tuukka Rask became a brick wall, stopping a total of  34 shots in a dominating 4-1 victory for the B’s. With goals from Blake Wheeler, Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron and Miroslav Satan, the Bruins played one of their best games of the playoffs.

5. March 26: Rondo steals a piece of history vs. Kings

After the Celtics nearly lost 24-point lead late against the Sacramento Kings, Rondo decided to take matters into his own hands. Poised to make sure the C’s did not lose another game to a lousy team, he dominated the floor, helping the C’s clinch a third straight Atlantic Division title. Passing Rick Fox for most steals in Green history, Rondo also notched an impressive 18 assists in the 94-86 win.

4. May 22: Matsuzaka rolls

For all the struggles Daisuke Matsuzaka has had in his career with the Sox, he has intermittently shown flashes of brilliance, and given the team some return on the enormous investment they made to bring one of the top Japanese pitchers to the States. Saturday night in Philadelphia was one of the good outings for the gyro ball master, who lost a no-hit bid in the eight inning to Phillies shortstop Juan Castro. With impeccable defense behind him, Matsuzaka went eight strong, allowing only one hit while striking out five in an impressive 5-0 victory.

3. April 20: McDonald’s first-game heroics

With Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron on the disabled list, the Red Sox called up Darnell McDonald from Triple-A Pawtucket, hoping to get some production from an underachieving outfield. McDonald, who signed as a minor league free agent Nov. 24, had himself a game for the ages. Pinch-hitting in the eight inning with the Sox down 6-4, he hit a two-run homer to become only the third Red Sox player ever to have his first hit be a home run. Then, with the score tied at six in the ninth, he hit an RBI single off the Green Monster in left to win it 7-6 for the struggling Sox, snapping a five-game losing streak in the process.

2. April 21: The Tuukka dive

In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Buffalo, the Bruins saw some history finally work on their side. Too many men on the ice was the penalty in the second overtime that allowed the B’s to sneak away with an important victory against Ryan Miller and friends. Tuukka Rask, who had an assist on the game-winning goal by Miroslav Satan, outplayed the best goalie in the regular season, saving 35-of-37 shots. His diving save in the third period was the highlight of the night, punctuating a terrific performance for the Finnish youngster. With a number of magnificent plays on both ends of the ice, Rask came out on top, helping the B’s win 3-2 and inch closer to the next round.

1. May 9: Rondo’s triple double

In what may go down as the best playoff performance in the history of the Celtics, Rajon Rondo utterly dominated the Cavaliers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in an important 97-87 win. He joined Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to have those numbers in a playoff game. With MVP chants raining down, Rondo outplayed everyone and ran straight into the history books, proving once again how important a player he really is.