Rondo: The near-misses

976863.jpg

Rondo: The near-misses

I'm going to have something a little bigger on the Rondo situation tomorrow. You know, just to change things up a bit. In the meantime, here's another little diversion from the Rondo talk with a little something about Rondo.

As we speak, Rondo is the NBA leader in total assists, with 420. However, it's only a matter of time before he loses this title. The way it looks now, Greivis Vasquez will have surpassed him by next week, and by the end of the year, Rondo's name won't be visible on the list of top NBA assisters. (Rasheed Wallace approved.)

On the other hand, I'm willing bet he finishes the year as the NBA's leader in triple doubles.

To that, a lot of people will say: "BLSRHF! Who cares? They were 2-3 when Rondo tripled doubled this year. It's meaningless!"

But that's not true. They aren't meaningless. Because triple doubles are awesome. Are they more important than winning? Of course not. But they're still great.

Seriously, how many stat lines are cool enough to get name dropped in raps?

Perfect game? No hitter?

Anything else?

I'm talking single game stat lines. Not season.

Maybe "straight sets"? I'm almost positive that I've heard Jay-Z rap about beating someone in straight sets, but Google isn't backing me up.

Anyway, the world loves triple doubles, and Rondo currently leads the NBA with five. That's well ahead of LeBron, Nicholas Batum and Jose Calderon, who are tied for second with two.

Of course, there's always the chance that LeBron goes off and ends up with, like, 10. But the safe bet is that Rondo finishes on top. This would be the second straight year he leads the league in this category. This, after finishing second to LeBron in the two previous seasons.

And how about this: Over the last three years, Rondo has 14 triple doubles. Nobody else has more than six. The next three guys on the list (LeBron, Iguodala, Westbrook) have combined for only 13.

For his career, Rondo has 18 triple doubles. That ties him with Kobe four fourth place on the active list behind Jason Kidd, LeBron and Grant Hill.

Maybe the craziness thing of all?

Rondo missed an additional three triple doubles by ONE rebound this season.

That means he was three random rebounds away from having eight triple doubles in 38 games!

And OK, that's enough. Let's not go down that road. After all, three of the five triple doubles he did get featured exactly 10 rebounds, so you could also say that he was three random rebounds from having two. Bottom line: He finished with five. That's still amazing.

And certainly something we're all going to miss over the course of this Rondoless season.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

BOSTON –  Questions about Boston’s second unit have lingered all season.

But in the first half of Monday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics got a major boost from the second unit which paved the way for Boston’s 59-53 lead at the half.

They outscored their Charlotte brethren 21-10 which was instrumental in them fending off an always-tough Charlotte team despite the Hornets (20-20) coming in having lost four in a row – all on the road.

Boston opened with a 10-2 run, the kind of spurt that you knew would likely be followed at some point by a comparable run by the Hornets.

On cue, Charlotte began to chip away at Boston’s lead and eventually went ahead following a pair of Kemba Walker free throws with 3:39 to play.

The teams went back and forth until Boston’s Jaylen Brown, who delivered a moving pre-game speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, took over the game with less than a minute to play in the first.

Trailing 30-29, Brown scored the quarter’s final five points to lift Boston to a 34-30 lead going into the second quarter.

In the second quarter, it was Kelly Olynyk – another Celtics reserve - taking over with a slew of baskets and hustle plays including saving a ball from going out of bounds in front of the Charlotte bench and tossing it up court with the Celtics ultimately getting a lay-up from Brown.

With 7:24 to play in the half, Charlotte called a time-out with the Celtics leading 45-40.

The Hornets responded with an 8-3 spurt to tie the game at 48 following a dunk by Spencer Hawes which led to Brad Stevens looking for answers during a Celtics time-out with 5:18 to play in the half.

Boston’s starters eventually returned to the floor in the second quarter and seemingly picked up where their backups left off.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Kemba Walker

There was a definite sense of urgency on Walker’s part to do what he could to lead the Hornets out of their four-game funk. He did his part in the first half, scoring 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.

Al Horford

This was one of the better first halves offensively we’ve seen from Al Horford this season. He led the Celtics with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field.

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

With what looked like an increased emphasis to get the ball to Horford, Thomas played the role of the other scorer and didn’t disappoint. He had 13 points in the first half along with three assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk was assertive both on the perimeter and around the basket. And the results by and large, were positive. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with five rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown

He provided a major lift at the end of the first quarter, which is when he scored five of his seven first-half points.

Marvin Williams

He gave Boston problems both inside the paint as well as on the perimeter as he tallied 12 points which included a pair of 3-pointers.

 

DUDS

Cody Zeller

His job is to roll to the rim, defend and rebound. He seemed to struggle in all three phases in the first half. He had three points and three rebounds, but when he was on the floor the Hornets had a plus/minus of -7.