Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge

Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge
January 5, 2013, 3:52 am
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BOSTON Of the Boston Celtics' new Big Three, Rondo has the greatest track record of proven success with plenty of room to still grow as a player.

He has proven himself an elite passer and when properly motivated, a better-than-average defender.

Scoring hasn't been a strength of his, but that's exactly what Doc Rivers is asking him to provide more of moving forward.

Rondo took an important step in that direction on Friday in leading the C's to a surprisingly comfortable 94-75 win over the red-hot Indiana Pacers.

The three-time all-star finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds as the Celtics (15-17) snapped a four-game losing skid with Friday's victory.

As good as Rondo played, he by no means was the sole reason for the Celtics pulling out an important, much-needed victory.

Here's a recap of the keys outlined prior to the game and how they actually played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will once again be tough to come by for the Celtics against an Indiana team that thrives in making life difficult for opponents offensively. Teams are averaging just 90 points per game against the Pacers, the second-best scoring defense in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't exactly light the scoreboard up, but their steady play all game defensively allowed them to position themselves for a comfortable lead that was never really threatened in the second half.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Paul George: Pierce will have his hands full defensively against George who has emerged as one of the most improved players this season in part because of an increased opportunity to play with Danny Granger being out.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce didn't put up huge numbers for the Celtics, but he delivered a much, much better showing than George who had struggles at both ends of the floor. In addition to his problems defending Pierce, George only had nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger seems to keep getting better with each and every opportunity he gets to play. His emergence as a reliable option off the bench who can score and rebound, bodes well in the C's recovery efforts from what has been a disappointing start to the season.

WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger picked up two quick fouls after having played about 11 minutes. To his credit, he played through the foul trouble and finished with a solid night off the bench with 7 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has to hold its own on the boards, which will allow them to get out and run against a Pacers team that isn't used to having its transition defense challenged much. They are giving up a league-low 9.8 fast-break points per game in large part because they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA which prevents teams from getting out in transition even after they make an initial defensive stop.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston spent most of the game within a rebound or two of the Pacers, and finished with 49-47 edge.