Rondo closer to returning
When the Celtics met the Raptors Jan. 18, Rajon Rondo led the way as Boston broke a five-game losing streak. But Rondo sustained a right wrist sprain in a clash with Linas Kleiza and has missed eight straight games.
Rondo was out for last night’s 100-64 win over the Raptors at TD Garden but could return for tomorrow’s contest against the Knicks, according to coach Doc Rivers.
“I think he’ll be close,’’ Rivers said. “He’s getting closer every day.’’
The Celtics (11-10) have gone 6-2 without Rondo. But their late-game offense has suffered without him, and they struggled in the final quarter of three consecutive contests before last night.
“You can still win games [without Rondo],’’ Rivers said. “We knew that, anyway. Also, we are finding out it is very difficult down the stretch without Rajon in close games. Because he and Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] and Kevin [Garnett] have been together, you have the luxury of calling things you may not have put in this year they can run because they’ve been together.
“Without him, you’re pretty basic offensively, and I think you’re very easy to guard down the stretch and that’s hurt us.’’
Keyon Dooling (hip pointer) also has been out, so the Celtics have been going with Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore, essentially third- and fourth-string point guards.
“I think that they’ve both grown,’’ Rivers said. “Avery has established himself defensively, E’Twaun offensively, in some ways.’’
Bradley led the Celtic starters last night in playing time (26:28) and had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“I told Avery he has to be Andre Miller, who I think is the best cutter without the ball in the league,’’ Rivers said. “Instead of looking at the ball, we told him, just look at your man. Right when he turns his head, cut behind him, he’ll never know you’re gone. And it’s been good for him.’’
Long time coming
Garnett converted his first 3-pointer since April 10, 2011, at Miami.
“I tell him all the time he should shoot more threes,’’ Pierce said. “I’ve seen him take threes all the time in practice and he knocks it down consistently. I mean, he shoots a lot of his long-range 2-pointers that are almost threes, so I know if he started taking them, maybe he could start making more of them because he has that kind of range.’’
Bass gets the hang
The Celtics are still working on integrating Brandon Bass into their defensive plans.
“I’m getting more impressed with his one-on-one defense on the ball - without any rotational thoughts,’’ Rivers said. “He’s really good when he gets into that.
“The schemes is where he gets lost, and he’s gotten better. I took him off pretty quick [Tuesday] night because he was not scheming very well. But, second half, he came in and did it. And I keep telling him he can do it.
“But where I love him is against teams like [Cleveland] and Orlando. You can switch ‘4-3’ pick-and-rolls and he can guard the ‘3,’ and we haven’t been able to do that. And that’s huge with a shooting ‘3’ or ‘4,’ that helps us in a big way.’’
Bass had 12 points and nine rebounds last night, leading all Celtics with 31 minutes.
Allen is rooting for the Patriots against the Giants in the Super Bowl. “I’ve been watching the Patriots for 20 years,’’ he said. “When I got to Connecticut, everyone in dorms always rooted for the Patriots. I never had a hometown team, but I was around kids from Massachusetts and Connecticut.’’ . . . Rivers said the noon start for Sunday’s game against Memphis hampers the team’s practice plans. “It would be great if Sunday was a night game,’’ Rivers said. “Obviously, I don’t think anybody would watch or come, but it would be nice for us because then you could have a practice. But the afternoon game takes that away. It’s just the way the schedule is. Our guys are getting better with it.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.