By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON So much for the much anticipated point guard duel between Boston's Rajon Rondo and Utah's Deron Williams.
This matchup was never really close, much like the game which the Celtics won easily, 110-86.
Boston (33-9), winners of five in a row - all at home - set the tone with a 7-2 spurt to start the game, with all three of the Celtics baskets coming on assists.
For the game, Boston had 31 assists on 37 made baskets, the kind of assist-to-basket made ratio seldom achieved.
"It's just a product of our work," said Paul Pierce, who had 20 points. "Everyday we come in here and that's what we work on. We work on making the passes, running our offense. Believing in one another, not caring who gets the credit. When you have a selfless group like this, that's what happens."
It didn't hurt that Williams picked up two quick personal fouls.
"Two quick fouls - two quick calls I should say - took me out of (the) game," said Williams, who had a season-low five points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field. "And (I) couldn't really recover."
Rondo getting Williams into foul trouble wasn't exactly the plan coming into the game.
Considering the extra time Rondo put in prior to the game breaking down Williams on video, it's not surprising that Rondo recognized one or two of Williams' tendencies, and exploited them to the C's advantage.
"That's typical Rondo," said Kevin Garnett, who led all scorers with 21 points. "Rondo is one of the biggest students of the game on our team. When you are playing against players that can take a game over and are the leaders of teams, tonight, he (Rondo) just D'd up. You tend to know the other guy, especially Rondo. We have a lot of guys that are prideful around here and when we play that player, whoever it is, we all have them. He was a little focused tonight. That's typical dodo (Rondo); he's going to watch film, he's going to know their sets, their calls and he was more than ready tonight."
Friday wasn't one of Rondo's best games of the season, as he finished with four points and 12 assists.
But it was more than enough to position the Celtics for a surprisingly easy win over a Jazz team (26-16) that has now lost three in a row.
"They showed us what basketball is like tonight," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "They came out and played a terrific game, they took us out of our offense; we couldn't do anything of what we were trying to do."
Sloan added, "I didn't think we competed that hard. That's been our problem the past few games, we really struggle by being able to get out and get after people, cause you can see what it does to a team. We just happened to be the recipient of it tonight."
One of the few bright spots for the Jazz was no one, really.
Andrei Kirilenko had 11 points and seven rebounds, but his points and board-work were never a factor in the game's outcome.
Former Celtic Al Jefferson, who got a warm applause from the Celtics faithful when introduced with the starters, also struggled.
He finished with seven points while missing 10 of his 11 shots from the field.
The only downside for the C's was that Shaquille O'Neal suffered a right leg injury that prevented him from returning in the second half. He did not travel with the team to Washington.
In addition to the Wizards game on Saturday, there's a chance that O'Neal won't play against Cleveland on Tuesday, either.
"It just locked up on me," O'Neal told CSNNE.com moments after the C's victory. "I'll be alright."
His replacement, Semih Erden, had a career-high 14 points along with seven rebounds.