The Boston Celtics showed they can still keep the ball moving even without the NBA’s assist leader, getting a triple-double from Paul Pierce while holding off the Indiana Pacers 99-88 on Sunday to extend their winning streak to 13 straight.
Pierce had 12 assists and Ray Allen added six more as the Celtics played their second straight game without Rondo, who is out for a couple of weeks with a sprained left ankle.
”That’s the point we make with this team. When the ball moves, there’s assists,” coach Doc Rivers said. ”Guys are going to get assists and they’re getting that.”
Pierce added 18 points and 10 rebounds to go with his dozen assists. It was the sixth regular-season triple-double of Pierce’s career and seventh overall. He last accomplished the feat March 8, 2006, against Philadelphia, which visits Boston on Wednesday.
”I pride myself in trying to be a complete player,” Pierce said. ”Throughout the course of my career I’ve worked on a lot of things on both sides of the ball.”
Nate Robinson started for Rondo and scored 18 points. Allen finished with 17 points and Shaquille O’Neal, who had missed four straight games with a sore right calf, returned with 11 points, including a monster dunk off a long lob from Pierce.
”Shaq is a big guy. When he looks up, I get his head nod and he says ‘throw it to the rim’ – that’s what I try to do,” Pierce said. ”He doesn’t have to jump too high to dunk the ball, so I just try to put it right next to the rim.”
The only Boston starter not to score in double figures was Kevin Garnett, and he had a solid nine points and nine rebounds.
The Celtics, who improved to 12-1 at home, are looking pretty deep.
”They can be beat, but you have to play a near perfect game,” said Indiana’s Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 19 points. ”I think the Celtics are more talented than those other teams across the board. They probably have 40 years of All-Star games between (them).”
Roy Hibbert had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the pesky Pacers, who hung with the Celtics until the final few minutes. Indiana made just 34 of 96 shots, but only committed 13 turnovers to Boston’s 18 and was almost able to keep up with the bigger Celtics in rebounding.
”They’re a heck of a basketball team and they’re stingy in the fourth quarter,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. ”We didn’t stop them enough times to give us our chance to make a run.”
Boston finally broke it open with a spurt late in the fourth quarter after Indiana pulled within 85-81. Davis and Allen each hit jumpers, then Allen made one of the plays of the day to wilt any hopes the Pacers may have had about another comeback.
Darren Collison burned Robinson with a crossover in the lane, passed it back outside and Allen was there to pluck it away and break for the basket. He crossed up Mike Dunleavy in the lane and banked in a reverse layup that gave the Celtics a 91-83 lead with 3:11 left.
The Celtics were playing their second straight game without Rondo, who is out indefinitely with a sprained left ankle.
Notes: O’Neal hadn’t played since Dec. 8 against Denver. … Boston’s last loss was Nov. 21 at Toronto. … The Celtics closed the first period on a 9-2 run for a 30-23 lead. … Glen Davis also scored 18 for the Celtics, who haven’t lost in nearly a month.