Fun to watch shooting stars

Rondo's streak gets attention

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / November 27, 2008
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Rajon Rondo grabbed an inbounds pass early in the third quarter and slammed the ball to the court with enough strength that it bounced several feet over his head. He had just allowed his man to score, and he'd had enough.

"I was frustrated on the defensive end," Rondo said. "It was a defensive mind-set."

Rondo, though, willed the Celtics in the second half with his offense, which has blossomed to the point that Paul Pierce suggested after the Celtics' 119-111 victory over the Warriors last night that Rondo might be an All-Star.

Rondo sparked the Celtics' comeback by scoring 16 of his season-high 22 points in the third quarter, taking it upon himself to extricate the Celtics from their second-quarter malaise and erase a 13-point halftime deficit.

Rondo continued his emergence as a consistent offensive force. He has scored at least 13 points in five straight games, upping his season scoring average to 10.1. Rondo's streak owes to enhanced aggression, and one prominent teammate believes it makes him one of the league's elite players.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he made the All-Star team this year," Pierce said. "He really changed the game. When he's on like he was on tonight, we're unbeatable.

"With me, Kevin [Garnett], and Ray [Allen] on a night-in, night-out basis, Rajon is now starting to develop that consistency as a player. He's starting to establish himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA."

Rondo understands the All-Stars correlation.

"I sure appreciate it," Rondo said. "I just go out there and try to win. I'm sure the more we win, the more votes I'll get."

Rondo's ascension toward the league's elite has coincided with his vow to be more aggressive. He has been attacking defenses, zipping his way into the paint, and then, rather than looking to find open teammates, trying to use his speed to blow all the way to the basket.

"As of late, I'm not passing up any jumpers," Rondo said before the game. "I'm just trying to keep the defense honest. I'm probably more comfortable now. Last year, people said I could get to the basket, get to the rim. But now I really feel that way, especially in transition."

Trying to be unselfish, Rondo sometimes hurt the Celtics. He would think, coming down the court, "Ray hasn't shot the ball in three possessions. I'm going to get him a shot." His teammates implored him not to pass solely out of a devotion to sharing.

Coach Doc Rivers showed him something that made him take notice: Rondo has scored just 2 points only twice this season; Boston lost both games, their only defeats of the year.

"The biggest thing with him isn't knocking down shots," Allen said. "It's him being aggressive. He's really attacking the defense, which means a great deal for all of us because now they decide where to bring [defensive] help from."

And, besides, Rondo has taken his more prominent scoring role without sacrificing assists, distributing seven last night (with no turnovers) and maintaining his season assist average at 6.5. Rondo also snared eight rebounds (four on offense), made two steals, and deflected several passes.

Rondo became most aggressive when the Celtics most needed it. He electrified TD Banknorth Garden in the third quarter, grabbing rebounds and creating his own fast breaks. He made a driving, fast-break bank shot over Stephen Jackson to pull the Celtics within a basket. In the fourth quarter, he corralled a loose rebound and snuck the ball back in, under the arm of 6-foot-11-inch Andris Biedrins.

"The key to them winning this game was Rondo," Jackson said. "Rondo had a hell of a game. He made a lot of big shots and a lot of big defensive plays."

Marc J. Spears of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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