Injury to finger sidelines Rondo
MINNEAPOLIS — Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said Saturday that he aggravated his sore right pinkie during Friday night’s 83-81 loss to the Bobcats as he jammed his hand attempting to knock the ball away from Gerald Henderson.
Then he went out and banged the finger again during practice Saturday and missed last night’s 85-82 Celtics’ victory over the Timberwolves. Delonte West made his first start since returning to the Celtics and finished with 8 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Rondo has been nursing the finger for a few weeks and had an X-ray before the March 21 win over the Knicks in New York.
He tried to downplay the injury before the trip but coach Doc Rivers decided to hold him out for at least one game. The Celtics play the Pacers tonight and then have two days off before Thursday’s showdown with the Spurs in San Antonio.
“Just a finger, it’s nothing bad,’’ Rivers said. “Obviously if it were a playoff game, he’d be playing. He got it hit in practice. Our practices have become deadly. I was joking the other day we shouldn’t practice anymore. I may be getting serious about that because the last three practices we’ve had, someone’s been injured.’’
Rondo has refused to attribute his recent slump to the injury. Rivers said recently he wanted to reduce Rondo’s minutes and use West more extensively. It certainly worked in the first quarter last night as the Celtics shot 59 percent. West sealed the game with an offensive rebound with 28.9 seconds left and the Celtics clinging to a 3-point lead.
“I couldn’t tell you what [West] does great, but he’s a hell of a player to have on your basketball team because he’s going to help you win a game,’’ Rivers said. “He was terrific, especially early on. I think he set the tone for us. He’s so tough.’’
This month, Rondo is shooting 36 percent from the field and averaging 8.6 assists, nearly three fewer than his season average. And while his free throw percentage had been on the rise, it has dropped to 53 percent during March.
“I just don’t think I’m playing well,’’ he said Saturday. “It has nothing to do with the finger.’’
Meanwhile, the Celtics got a break when the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love was ruled out with a strained left groin. Love, who had missed the previous two games, worked out before the game but was a late scratch. He grabbed 24 rebounds as Boston held off the Timberwolves, 96-93, Jan. 3 at TD Garden.
Husky pride Ray Allen was walking through the Celtics locker room looking for a North Carolina-Kentucky score. His interest? The winner plays UConn in the Final Four next Saturday in Houston. Kentucky prevailed, making the Huskies the highest-seeded team in the quartet.
The Huskies won five games in five nights to take the Big East tournament and have won four more games in the NCAA Tournament. Allen follows UConn basketball closely, still referring to his team as “we’’ when discussing the Huskies’ run.
“I think one of the biggest things you deal with in college is trying to get hot at the right time,’’ Allen said. “And I won’t necessarily say we were hot as much as we played well and the right way down the stretch. We found a formula. We struggled going through the Big East, but all that adversity put us in a great position where we’re now in the Final Four.’’
Back in town When asked his thoughts on the Timberwolves’ rebuilding plan, former franchise icon Kevin Garnett offered no comment. But he added that he enjoys coming back to Minneapolis and was grateful for the warm applause he received before the game . . . After scoring 55 points and grabbing 26 rebounds in his previous two games, Minnesota’s Anthony Randolph was held to 3 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. “I watched his last couple of games and I just took his first option away from him,’’ Garnett said. “Made him do some things he didn’t want to do. Got him into foul trouble.’’ . . . Jermaine O’Neal is expected to join the team today in Indianapolis and could return within the next week. Troy Murphy (sprained ankle) did not make the trip . . . Glen Davis was 4 for 15, the third time this season he missed 10 or more shots in a game.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.