By A.Sherrod Blakely
MINNEAPOLIS The absence of Rajon Rondo (right pinkie finger) for the Boston Celtics is hard to ignore.
But Delonte West certainly makes it more palatable with his all-around game, which was instrumental in the Celtics' 85-82 win at Minnesota on Sunday.
West, making his first start of the season, had eight points and five assists.
He also grabbed three rebounds, the last of which was an offensive board that was arguably the biggest play of the game.
Clinging to a three-point lead with just under 28 seconds to play, West's rebound ultimately led to a pair of Paul Pierce free throws that sealed the victory.
"He brings energy and you feed off that," Pierce said. "As you saw late in the game, he got the offensive rebound, which was huge. It's good to have him out there."
West may be in the starting lineup Monday night when the Celtics play at Indiana.
Coach Doc Rivers said no decision has been made on whether Rondo will play against the Pacers.
If he can't go, the C's are more than comfortable with West running the first team.
He and Rondo have very different games, which became quite evident in the game's first couple of minutes on Sunday.
With West at the point, he opened the game by nailing a pair of jumpers - something you don't see too often out of Rondo.
Those shots seemed to establish the C's tempo.
"He was terrific," Rivers said of West. "He set the tone for us. He's so tough. Delonte, again, I don't know how you describe his game. I couldn't tell you what he does great. He's a hell of a player to have on your basketball team because he's going to help you win a game."
Injuries, and a suspension on an offseason gun charge at the start of the season, have limited West to appearing in just 15 games this year.
But that doesn't mean he can't make an impact.
In fact, that's the one thing that West is pretty consistent with doing.
"All the little things that you don't see in the boxscore, Delonte really does," Pierce said. "I'm glad he's back to full strength."
His timing could not be better as Rondo remains questionable for Mondays game because of his pinkie finger injury.
But as much as West helps the Celtics because of his talent, his competitive drive is even more valuable.
"His ability to compete, is higher than I've been around for a while," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. "It's higher than anybody I've been around for a while."