Rondo's triple-double leads Celtics past Bobcats

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Rondo's triple-double leads Celtics past Bobcats

BOSTON Rajon Rondo has a birthday coming up next month.

He'll be 27 years old which is still relatively young by most people's standards.

But players that age, especially those who have accomplished all that Rondo has in his NBA career, are indeed targets every time they step on the basketball court.

Aware of this, Rondo made a point -- make that several points -- on Monday to remind folks why he is firmly entrenched on the short list of the NBA's elite point guards.

Rondo's all-around game was among the keys in Boston's 100-89 victory over Charlotte, a game in which Rondo tallied his third triple-double of the season and 26th of his career.

He finished with 17 points along with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in helping the Celtics (20-17) win for the sixth straight game.

"He controlled the game from the start," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "He came out aggressive; he was getting to the hole. He was finishing lay-ups and pressuring the ball. He was setting the tempo early."

During the C's most recent string of victories, Rondo hadn't filled up the stat sheet as he normally does.

The league's leader in assists, Rondo came into Monday's game averaging 8.3 assists per game during the team's winning streak -- about three fewer assists than he has averaged this season.

Charlotte's Kemba Walker was the latest up-and-coming playmaker in the NBA who was hoping to test his skills against the more seasoned Rondo.

"I'm getting a little bit older, so the younger guys are coming in, I kind of have a mark on my back being an older guy, making a couple all-stars," Rondo said. "I'm a target every night. I just wanted to go out there and defend what I do best -- run the show."

For most of the 37-plus minutes Rondo was on the floor, it was classic Rondo. He made an array of acrobatic shots, sprinkled in a slew no-look passes and of course, snared more than his share of rebounds both around the basket and those that took a long bounce away from the rim.

"He's just very crafty," said Bobcats guard Ben Gordon. "He knows the game, he has a very high basketball IQ so he's a mismatch for most guys. Even if he's not scoring he's able to find his teammates. He's a true point guard."

A big part of being a point guard is finding different ways to impact the game.

Despite his numbers being down during the C's recent winning streak, teammate Courtney Lee is quick to come to his defense when it comes to explaining Rondo's impact on the Celtics' success.

"You're used to Rondo impacting the game through assists, getting to the lane and making floaters and lay-ups and what-not," Lee said. "But as you've seen of late, he's picked up his defense and his communication. He's more of a vocal leader out there, so he's impacting games in more ways."

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”