BOSTON – Rajon Rondo has not looked like an All-Star point guard lately. He admitted as much after Wednesday’s win over the Detroit Pistons.
“I’ve not been myself,” said Rondo. “I haven’t been as aggressive. I haven’t been making shots. I’ve been turning the ball over. I have to find a better rhythm.”
On Friday night, with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in town, Rondo found that rhythm. The 28-year-old guard posted 12 points, eight rebounds and 16 assists, leading the Celtics to a 113-96 victory over their cross-country rivals.
The victory snapped a 17-game losing streak against the Western Conference that dated back to last season, and came via one of the most complete efforts by this Celtics roster on the young season.
Rondo set the tone from the opening tip, posting six points and five assists in the first quarter, helping the Celtics build a 16-point first quarter lead. The Lakers made a pair of runs in both halves, thanks to the contributions from Kobe Bryant (22 points) and Nick Young (16 points) but each time the Celtics fought back, in large part due to Rondo’s high octane play. A 13-0 run by Boston midway through the fourth quarter put the game away for good.
Rondo’s effect on the Celtics offense was apparent in the box score lines of his fellow starters as well. The point guard set up both Jared Sullinger (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (career-high 24 points, 14 rebounds) regularly with plenty of highlight-reel assists. No. 9 was also very aggressive with his own shot with a season-high 17 field goal attempts on the evening. He only hit six of those attempts, but the threat of the jumper kept a lackluster Lakers’ defense on its heels all game long.
For the Celtics to succeed this season, the team needs this version of Rondo to show up, not the tentative shooter that we’ve seen over the past few weeks. His aggressiveness opens up plenty of opportunities for his teammates and that was on full display Friday night.
While all five Celtics starters had productive games via scoring in double figures, the other major takeaway from the blowout win was the stellar effort from Zeller. The seven-footer continues to solidify his spot in the starting lineup thanks to his chemistry with Rondo in the pick-and-roll and by playing solid defense inside.
The Celtics have now won two games in a row, but will face a formidable challenge when Paul Pierce and the Washington Wizards come to town for a Sunday matinee at the Garden.