By A. Sherrod Blakely
PHOENIX The Boston Celtics locker room had just about emptied out.
Rajon Rondo, as has been the case frequently this season, was the last player to leave.
And on a night when so many Celtics seemed to struggle in so many ways, Rondo was the first to place a good chunk of the blame for the team's latest setback squarely upon his shoulders.
There are plenty of areas to dissect if you're trying to figure out some type of rhyme or reason for Friday's 88-71 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Not controlling the game's tempo stands out.
So do Rondo's unusually high number of turnovers.
"It starts with me," he said. "I've had back-to-back six- and seven-turnover games."
In Boston's win at Portland, Rondo had six turnovers and five assists. On Friday, he had seven turnovers and six assists.
It was the first time this season Rondo had back-to-back games in which he had more turnovers than assists. In addition, it was also just the second time this season he has had back-to-back games with single digits in assists.
When it comes to turnovers, the Celtics are quick to give credit to their opponent's play defensively.
But too many of Rondo's miscues are unforced mistakes that have been few and far between this season.
"I can't worry about turnovers I don't cause," Rondo said. "It's me."
Of course, fatigue may have been at play as well.
Boston, one of the oldest teams in the NBA, were coming off a back-to-back game while the Suns came into Friday's game having not played since Wednesday.
It might not seem like that big a deal, but an extra day of rest to prepare for a veteran team that's already playing short-handed, can be a huge advantage.
"It may have been fatigue. It may have not. We just didn't have it tonight," Rondo said.
Paul Pierce, who never looked like himself on Friday, was clearly favoring a sore right thigh injury from the previous night at Portland.
Shaquille O'Neal had returned from a three-game absence, but he made no impact in part because of early foul trouble.
Kendrick Perkins was hampered with early foul trouble as well.
And Glen Davis, one of the top reserves in the NBA this season, did not play in the second half because of a right hamstring injury. He had two points while missing four of his five shots from the field.
There were plenty of places to go if you're looking for a logical explanation for what went wrong for the Celtics.
Rondo knows this.
But the solution, in his eyes, is staring him right in the face.
"I have to look myself in the mirror," Rondo said, "and try and correct it."