BOSTON — Rajon Rondo made pass after pass . . . after pass. Eighteen of them led to baskets - and enough baskets were made that the Celtics beat the Pistons, 118-111, on Sunday.
It was a game unlike most for the Celtics this season. They did win, after all. But aside from that, it was how they won - with offense - that stood out in this one.
In the first quarter, Rondo and Kris Humphries (together at last!) made up the two-man game where five of Rondo's six first-quarter assists came at the hands of Humphries.
There were a few other nifty passes by Rondo in the first quarter that didn't amount to assists, but proved even further that pre-ACL tear Rondo is back and here to stay (for as long as Danny Ainge allows him to stay anyways…).
The Celtics didn't take the foot off the gas in the second quarter, either. Kelly Olynyk, who has looked better than ever since returning from an ankle injury, scored nine points in the quarter and grabbed four rebounds. He finished the night with an impressive 18 points and six rebounds off the bench for Boston.
Leading 57-49 at halftime, Boston came out with quite possibly its best quarter (offensively) of the season. How does 38 points in one quarter sound? Yup, that happened. Boston led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Jeff Green hit four three-pointers in the quarter alone, three of them coming in a row. He finished with 27 points on the night (5-for-12 from three-point range). Rondo added six more assists and five points in the quarter.
The problem? Boston allowed 35 points in the third quarter.
Prior to the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted how physically powerful and big the Pistons are down low. Between Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith, Detroit has one of the more loaded starting units size-wise in the NBA.
And yeah, it was on display. All three players finished with double-doubles. Drummond had 18 points and 22 rebounds while Monroe scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Smith added 26 points and 11 rebounds.
All three combined for 47 of the team's 54 rebounds. Smith and Monroe combined for 23 of the team's 35 points in the third quarter, as Detroit went into the fourth quarter down 95-84.
But the Celtics didn't let up, despite the Pistons hanging around.
Detroit cut it to a six-point Celtics lead at 97-91 with 8:32 left to play in the game, with Rondo resting to start the quarter. He entered the game with just over seven minutes to play as the Celtics held a 10-point lead.
Ten seconds later Rondo made a cross-court bounce pass to a streaking Jerryd Bayless to make it a 12-point game. A Sullinger basket on the next possession made it a 14-point game. Again, the Pistons clawed back and trailed by just four points, but didn't have enough in the tank to fully overcome the deficit.
Humphries finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jared Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Rondo's 18th assist (to Humphries, duh) with 1:54 to play gave him 4,101 for his Celtics career, one more than Celtics legend Bill Russell, who Rondo passed for fifth all-time in C's history. He finished the game with zero turnovers, and the Celtics as a team turned the ball over just seven times.