While trade rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo haven’t gone away,
the Boston Celtics likely aren’t too eager to deal their All-Star
point guard following his latest effort.
The host Celtics look to match their longest winning streak of
the season Tuesday night against the scuffling Houston Rockets, who
have surprisingly thrived in Boston of late.
After dropping five straight Feb. 15-22, the Celtics (19-17)
have since turned a corner. Scoring just 90.9 points per game this
season, Boston has averaged 102.5 in winning four in a row.
Leading the Eastern Conference with 10.2 assists per contest,
Rondo has done it all over that stretch. Five days after recording
15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists during a 102-96 win over
Milwaukee, Rondo had 18, a career-high 17 and 20, respectively,
during Sunday’s 115-111 overtime win over New York.
“I know we’re all in this together, but it’s great when he takes
over like that,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s the smartest point
guard I’ve ever been around. He’s a brilliant player like
Rondo became the first player to record a triple-double with at
least 17 in each category since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who
had 24 points, 17 assists and 17 rebounds on April 18, 1989.
The Celtics have climbed into seventh place in the East during
their winning streak and now lead the eighth-place Knicks by 1 1/2
“It was a big win for us,” Rondo said. “We’re trying to get a
Paul Pierce also came up big Sunday, matching a season-high with
34 points – including a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left in
Rondo and Pierce were, in contrast, limited to a combined 14
points on 4-of-21 shooting during a 93-77 loss at Houston (21-17)
last March 18. The Celtics have dropped three straight in this
series overall and eight of 10 versus the Rockets at home.
Boston, however, has won eight of 10 at TD Garden and could be
facing Houston at just the right time. The Rockets suffered their
third consecutive defeat Sunday, falling 105-103 to the Los Angeles
Clippers in overtime.
“We had some opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage,” said
Rockets coach and former Celtics star Kevin McHale, who won three
NBA championships with Boston.
“When you have a (good) team like that on the ropes, you just
can’t have any mistakes and we gave away a couple down the stretch
and it hurt us.”
There were 20 ties and 24 lead changes Sunday, but the Rockets
were outrebounded for the 10th consecutive game and ultimately came
up short. Houston has been outrebounded by an average of 12.0
boards during its skid.
“Both teams were playing well,” said Kevin Martin, who missed
what would have been the game-winning 3 with one second left in OT.
“I think that’s why it hurts the most. We have been harping over
coming out and setting a tone, effort-wise. We did everything
right, except for one thing.”
Martin, who had a season-high 35 points Friday during a 117-105
loss to Denver, finished with 25 on 6-of-22 from the field.
Houston, which opens a five-game road trip Tuesday, has been
outscored by 13.3 points per contest in losing three straight in