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Rondo took a pass

He chose to get others involved

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 18, 2010

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Rajon Rondo kept his composure as Kevin Garnett attempted to block his thought process in the Celtics’ locker room after a 109-97 win over the New York Knicks last night at TD Garden.

“I could have been more aggressive, but I try to get guys shots,’’ Rondo said after taking only three field goal attempts.

Then, after Garnett walked behind uttering a distracting line or two, Rondo remained on point: “We’re 2-0 when I take five or less shots — so keep passing the ball.’’

The Celtics will take a two-game winning streak to Houston for the opener of a three-game trip tomorrow. And Rondo has totaled eight shots in those contests, an indication the Celtics’ offensive roles are returning to normal as players recover from injury. Rondo had at least 10 tries from the field in six successive games before the Celtics defeated Detroit Monday, and he had not taken fewer than seven shots since the All-Star break. He went 1 for 5 in the Celtics’ 119-93 pounding of the Pistons and was 2 for 3 last night.

Rondo launched all of his shots in the opening half as the Celtics took a 68-49 lead against the Knicks. In the third quarter, Rondo was strictly in passing mode, totaling five assists as he concentrated on getting Garnett and Paul Pierce involved. Rondo had seven of his 12 assists in the second and third quarters, coinciding with Pierce’s 29 points (all in the second and third). Garnett produced 14 of his 22 points in the second and third, the most crowd-pleasing a fast-break dunk off a Rondo behind-the-back feed for an 83-57 lead with 5:27 remaining in third quarter.

Most of the Celtics need to fill their shot quota to be effective, and it is up to Rondo to dole out attempts. The Celtics talk about taking what the defense is giving, and letting the numbers take care of themselves. But things do not always work out so smoothly, and Rondo’s role includes spreading the wealth of shots.

“I don’t think it’s tricky,’’ Rondo said. “When I feel I need to score and be aggressive I try to do it. But otherwise, when we’re rolling I don’t have to take shots, that’s fine with me, as long as we win. Getting assists is better for me than scoring.

“Everybody’s back, guys are playing well, we’re winning, so be it. Regardless of the outcome, of how many shots I take a game, as long as we win.’’

In terms of pecking order, Garnett and Pierce are at the top of the list of those to be fed.

“You can’t leave out Ray [Allen], he’s a jump shooter, you have to get him looks early,’’ Rondo said. “Paul and Kevin create their shots every time up the court. Getting them looks in transition, I think that’s the key, getting them easy looks, going to the free throw line, and being aggressive.’’

As for Pierce, who appears to have recovered from knee and thumb injuries and topped 20 points for the first time since March 3 (a 104-80 win over Charlotte), Rondo said: “It’s been one or two games, so it’s kind of early to tell. Paul is Paul. Me, personally, I’m not concerned about Paul, how he’s playing, if he scores, or being aggressive and scoring 29 points — he can probably do that on any given night. He’s very unselfish as well, along with Kevin, but tonight he took shots.’’

The best athletes can see patterns and plays in advance, and Rondo started focusing on the road trip sometime in the final quarter last night.

“We only won two games, I don’t think that’s the answer,’’ he said. “We’ve still got to keep getting better. We’re trying to keep playing the games, sustain 48 minutes of basketball. So, we have a good test coming up these next three games. We’re pretty good on the road but we haven’t played Houston at all this season. They’re playing well at home, have a good point guard, they added a couple guys, so it will be interesting.’’

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