He spread out a season-high 18 assists. His three steals gave him the team’s single-season record. He only made three shots the entire night, and still Rajon Rondo was probably the most dominant player on the floor.
His teammates gave him a hard time on the bench.
“You have the record for most steals and the most gambles in one season,” they said, as the Garden crowd gave him an ovation. But, for what it’s worth, he’s fought off he urges to swipe at the ballhandler from behind, instead playing passing lanes and anticipating plays, ultimately putting up a league-high 2.39 steals a night.
He wiped Rick Fox’s 167 steals from the record books, and jokes aside, Garnett acknowledged the accomplishment.
“Anytime you get any kind of record in this organization on a team like what we have, is a huge thing,” Garnett said. “We are just of appreciative of being in the moment, being here, being apart of it. It is a very special moment, and no one even talked about the division title tonight. Tonight was Rondo’s night.”
“It may mean more to me one I retire or I am away from here,” Rondo said. “I am just focused on winning. It is a great accomplishment. This organization has won so many championships and has had some great players come through; so many all-stars have set records here, hopefully down the line another record. At the end of the day I am just trying to focus on getting wins and as an individual accomplishment, they come in the path of doing great things for the team.”
On five different occasions in the third quarter, the Celtics held a 24-point lead with a chance to run the game up to 30. But by the 3:12 mark in the fourth quarter, that lead had dwindled to just six. The Kings, of course, came back from 35 down against Chicago earlier this year. At the time, however, the had a healthy Tyreke Evans.
Doc Rivers, who had sat his starters at the beginning of the fourth, had to go back to them to finish off the game.
“It was really difficult for me to put the starters back in, but I did,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t the bench’s fault either, and I told the starters back.”
Rivers didn’t view it the same as other instances where the Celtics had given back huge leads.
“It looked like it was the bench’s fault and it really was not,” Rivers said. “The only thing is we’re trying to become a 48 minutes team and we were not, but I told them I’m not going to let that cloud how we were playing for two and a half quarters. That was terrific basketball.”
Tendonitis in his left knee relegated Kendrick Perkins to the inactive list last night. It was the second game he’s missed this season.
Rivers said it had been bothering Perkins for a while, finally coming to a head after the win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, when trainer Ed Lacerte told Rivers that he had to talk Perkins into sitting down.
Rivers said Perkins will likely miss Sunday’s game against San Antonio. Robinson, he said, was 50/50 at best.
“We’ve just got to get our guys to understand it’s about being healthy,” Rivers said. “That was the conversation I had with Perk.”
and Rivers, who considers late-game techs a cardinal sin, was more than clear in showing his displeasure during and after the game.
“You don’t get a tech in that situation,” Rivers said. “You’re up 18 points. Clearly, your team’s struggling. You’re not Garnett or one of those guys. You don’t get the liberty to talk anyway, to the officials. Clearly, he earned it I guess, but you just don’t get it. And he wasn’t playing well anyway at that point.
“I thought he was playing like the score. I told him, ‘He’s not at that point in his life yet, where he can turn it on and off. We need him to be an every possession player and I don’t think he was that tonight.”
Sitting 11.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics clinched the Atlantic Division for a third straight year.
It’s nice, but don’t expect a banner-raising ceremony.
“It’s obviously not what we’re trying to do,” Rivers said. “Obviously, when you have a team with your goals so high, you don’t focus on it.”