Rondo hampered by sprained ankle
NEW YORK — His star point guard, Rajon Rondo, the key to his luxury vehicle of a basketball team, was crumpled along the baseline on the far end of the court, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t budge from his seat. In fact, he barely turned his head.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it at the time,’’ Rivers said. “I was thinking about winning the game. I was going to go and tend to him after the game.’’
At the moment, he wasn’t terribly concerned that Rondo had sprained his left ankle. He was more concerned that the Celtics might have to go to a big lineup at the end of last night’s game, possibly costing them what wound up a 118-116 win over the Knicks.
Rondo was helped off the floor by Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and trainer Ed Lacerte. He had just gotten back on the floor after being benched for the last 5:30 of the third quarter.
At that third-quarter juncture, the Celtics had just let Danilo Gallinari drain a 3-pointer from in front of their bench. Rondo, frustrated as he went to inbound the ball, pounded the ball in frustration, then committed an ugly turnover on the other end, sailing an entry pass over Kevin Garnett’s outstretched arms in the post.
Rondo came back to the bench upset. Rivers took him out and put Robinson in.
“He was struggling and that’s why I took him out,’’ Rivers said. “He wasn’t really happy with it, but we don’t mind that. The bench makes everybody calm down. It always has, and he did.
“I asked him if he wanted to go back in and he did. He wanted to play, and you knew he would. It won’t be the last time. But my focus was on winning that game, and emotionally you always have to stay under control.’’
Rondo came back in to start the fourth, drove hard through the lane, but planted awkwardly, spraining his ankle.
“It hurts,’’ said Rondo, who has missed four games with foot and hamstring issues. “But all ankle sprains hurt.’’
He returned with 8:35 left in the game.
“We needed him,’’ Rivers said. “If Rondo couldn’t have come in, I thought we would have been in a little trouble.’’
Rondo said he would have X-rays this morning and expects to play tonight against the Hawks.
“Hopefully it doesn’t swell up,’’ he said.
Davis had hands full Glen Davis found himself chest-to-chest with the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire on a handful of occasions last night.
In the third quarter, when he drove past Davis, Stoudemire knew he got the foul call when he was still high in the paint, but he kept bulling his way into Davis as if he hadn’t heard the whistle. Official Bill Kennedy saw the storm brewing.
“Easy, easy,’’ Kennedy said.
Davis and Stoudemire made eye contact, then Davis looked at Kennedy. Stoudemire, however, was still strolling toward Davis. He brushed Davis slightly, but then grinned and shrugged.
“He made a good play, I fouled him,’’ Davis said. “Don’t back down.’’
In the fourth quarter, they ran into each other again. Stoudemire pushed Davis and, coming across the lane, they both fell to the floor. When he got up, Stoudemire was hit with the offensive foul. He then yelled something at an official, drawing a technical.
The Celtics threw three bodies at Stoudemire — Davis, Semih Erden, and Garnett — but couldn’t keep him from going for 39 points, extending his franchise-record streak to nine straight 30-point games.
“You know what? We didn’t mind his points,’’ Rivers said. “Amar’e, we guarded him one-on-one. If he was going to score 50, he was going to score 50, but our plan was to stop everyone else, and I didn’t think we did that very well.’’
Technical difficulty Garnett picked up his fourth technical foul in one of the oddest ways. He split the Knicks defense for a layup, grabbed the ball and bounced it to a referee along the baseline, for which he was hit with a delay of game. Puzzled, he went back down on defense. The next possession, the Celtics went to him again on the other side, and he got another layup. Again, he grabbed the ball and bounced it to the official along the baseline. He was hit with another delay of game, along with a technical. Two delay of game penalties, 34 seconds apart. “I have no idea,’’ Rivers said. “I thought you could catch it and throw it to the ref, but I guess you can’t.’’ Jermaine O’Neal made the trip, his second in the nearly six weeks he has missed with a sore left knee . . . Shaquille O’Neal sat out his third straight game with a sore right calf. “I’ve been ordered by [Rivers] and [strength and conditioning coach Bryan] Doo: 100 percent, don’t come back until you’re 100 percent.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.