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Second effort sealed deal

Rondo's triple-double was the big difference

The Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t lay a hand on Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who had 15 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds. The Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t lay a hand on Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who had 15 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / March 1, 2012
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The scoring came in the first half, when Rajon Rondo put up 13 points because he was able to repeatedly drive to the basket. That wasn’t the good half. That wasn’t the half in which Rondo took over, created the pace, and controlled the game.

That came after intermission, the part of the game coach Doc Rivers pointed to when analyzing Rondo’s contributions after the Celtics’ 102-96 win over the Bucks last night.

It was during the second 24 minutes when Rondo collected 7 of his 10 assists, 8 of his 11 rebounds, and just 2 points, that he was the player the Celtics needed.

“The second half was the first time in a while where he and the whole team, he just kept calling different sets and we ran our stuff to score instead of just trying to play out of random and figure it out,’’ Rivers said. “I thought that’s what we did in the first half.

“The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that’s who we were, and that’s who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo’s doing.’’

Rondo ended up with a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), his third this season and 16th of his career, including the postseason.

The Celtics, sparked by Rondo, exploded in the third quarter, going on a 25-6 run that marked a solid comeback from a shaky first 24 minutes. That was when Rondo got the pace where they wanted it, the team where they wanted it, and the score where they wanted it.

As Rivers said, “I thought tonight what he did a better job of, he got us organized earlier.’’

“I thought Rondo did a good job of just pushing the ball, knowing when to get us in our sets, giving it to the hot guys,’’ Paul Pierce said. “On both ends of the court he played tremendous. He did a great job of shutting down Brandon Jennings.

“When he’s out there getting rebounds and passing and doing everything for us we’re a tough team to beat.’’

Jennings, the Bucks guard who was averaging 18.2 points coming into last night’s game, was held to just 6 points in 33 minutes.

“I’m just focusing on the point guard matchup,’’ Rondo said. “It starts with me, so I try to keep the ball in front of me as much as possible. He’s the guy that makes the team go.’’

And Rondo is the guy that makes the Celtics go.

“I think I’m the best - or I’m at my best - when I get stops, able to get easy looks in transition for myself and for my teammates,’’ Rondo said.

Rondo, who was coming off a game against Cleveland in which he was held scoreless and committed five turnovers, was pleased that he took better care of the ball last night. He had three turnovers, which he deemed “OK,’’ other than one in the fourth quarter when the Bucks made a charge and narrowed their deficit to 2.

He pushed the pace, got the Celtics into their sets, and he scored some points for good measure. It was just the sort of game Boston would love to see Rondo have consistently.

“Rondo’s pace is important for us,’’ Kevin Garnett said. “When nine is in control of the ball, he’s going and rebounding and getting guys open shots and scoring the ball himself, it makes us a hard team to deal with.

“Consistency is always a question mark that I like to bring into play. But, man, when he’s open like that and when he has open court, it’s hard to stop us.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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