By A.Sherrod Blakely
NEWARK, N.J. Celtics coach Doc Rivers isn't quite ready to say Rajon Rondo is in a slump.
"He's not playing great right now, but I don't think he's slumping," Rivers said.
Whatever you call it, one thing is clear: Rondo is not playing Rondo-esque basketball.
And the Celtics are worse off for it.
The latest rough outing for Rondo and the C's came in Monday's 88-79 loss to the New Jersey Nets.
It was the Celtics' third loss in their last four games, and dropped them into a tie with Chicago (47-18) for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
A number of Celtics players struggled in the Nets loss, but Rondo's woes stood out.
On Monday, he had two points while missing 9 of his 10 shots from the field. He also had nine assists, which marked the fifth straight game he failed to tally double-digit assists -- the longest such stretch for him this season. During that stretch, he's shooting 17-for-50, or 34 percent, from the field.
"I'm getting good looks. I'm getting shots, I'm getting floaters. I'm getting lay-ups. I'm just missing right now," Rondo said. "It's not mental. I'm just missing."
And when he's not making plays, the Celtics as a team tend to struggle.
"It's tough because he's the guy that makes us go," said Glen Davis, who had his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds. "He's the guy that makes us play the way we need to play. He didn't have a good game tonight. That's just how it is."
Despite Rondo's struggles of late, no one seems overly concerned.
"He's human," Rivers said. "He's going to go through stretches just like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. They've all gone through stretches."
Added Garnett: "There are nights when he's quadruple-doubled or whatever. Some nights, you have nights like this. It's all about how you come back from that."