Rondo shines, leads Celtics to victory with triple-double

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Rondo shines, leads Celtics to victory with triple-double

BOSTON A back injury to Chicago's Derrick Rose denied fans at TD Garden the point-guard battle so many love to see between him and Boston's Rajon Rondo.

So that left Rondo to put on a show all by himself . . . and did he ever.

Rondo came out in full-blown attack mode, tallying his second triple-double of the season in leading the Celtics to a 95-91 win over the Bulls.

"9 (Rondo) was edgy," said Kevin Garnett. "I loved it. He came out and set the tone. He got guys involved. He was all over the place."

After a rough game at Toronto on Friday night, Rondo shrugged it off and responded with a season-high 32 points to go with 15 assists and 10 rebounds.

The assists, we've seen plenty of times.

The 10 rebounds?

Yeah. Rondo has proven time and time again to be one of the NBA's best rebounding point guards.

But the 32 points, which came on an array of lay-ups, jumpers and free throws - free throws in the final seconds of play, mind you - certainly wasn't what the Bulls anticipated.

C.J. Watson, who probably got torched more by Rondo than anyone, said afterward that he was essentially defending Rondo the way Bulls coach and former C's assistant Tom Thibodeau, told him to.

When asked about defending Rondo, Watson said it wasn't difficult.

"I just kept going into the screens like Thibodeau was saying and that's what we are gonna do," Watson said. "We wanted him to shoot, but tonight he was making them."

Rondo was 11-for-22 from the floor. Of his 11 made baskets, four were jumpers of at least 11-feet out.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers believes Rondo's success - and the team as a whole for that matter - was due to them looking to run more.

Mission accomplished, as the C's outscored the Bulls, 33-7, in fast break points.

And while Rondo is the initiator most of the time when it comes to Boston's transition game, Rivers was quick to point out that Rondo needs the help of his teammates in order to really run well.

"It's not Rondo, it's the team," Rivers said. "The bigs have to run the floor. Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen) have to run the floor."

That opens things up for early post-play. It also allows Allen and Pierce opportunities for good-looking jumpers in transition. And for Rondo, it creates more space for him to attack - something he was intent on doing from the game's opening tip-off.

Rondo declined to speak to the media following the win.

Not to worry, though.

His teammates as well as the opposition had plenty to say about his performance.

"Rondo's a great player," said Thibodeau. "Even if you're defending him well, he still has the ability to make great plays and that team is very experienced and I think they're playing at a very high level."

Added Garnett: "When we win big, it's because the little fella is aggressive like that. I told him after tonight's game I was proud of him. He came out and played with that edge. Anytime he does that, it makes everybody's job around here easier."

Even young players like JaJuan Johnson find that the game is much easier when Rondo attacks the way he did on Sunday.

"He's one of the best point guards in the league; one of the leaders on this team," Johnson told CSNNE.com. "We definitely needed one of our big, our main guys to step up. He was able to do that for us. That was big."

So was the win, one of the few this season by Boston over an elite team.

Even though it came with the league's reigning MVP (Rose) out, Rivers doesn't believe that should take away from the victory.

"In this season, every win is a marquee win, with the shortened season," Rivers said. "To me, every win is important. You just gotta get wins, as many as you can get. And then stack them up at the end of the year."

And a big part of that for the Celtics will be players like Rondo doing what they're supposed to do, more consistently.

"The reason we win," Garnett said, "is because guys know their role and they know their role well."

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup