Rondo (ankle) to miss at least two weeks
Before Wednesday night’s win in New York, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he couldn’t see his banged-up roster withstanding any more injuries.
Then, Rajon Rondo sprained his left ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Although Rondo returned to play the final 8:30, the ankle swelled up after the game and he found out yesterday morning that he would miss at least two weeks.
Hamstring and foot issues cost Rondo four games earlier this season, but the Celtics were able to survive without him. Now Rondo joins Jermaine O’Neal (out since Nov. 8), Delonte West (out since Nov. 24), and Shaquille O’Neal (out since Dec. 8) in street clothes, and the Celtics, who after last night’s 102-90 decision over the Hawks have 12 straight victories, need to figure out a way to keep winning.
“Just the numbers are starting to add up now where we just can’t sustain another one,’’ Rivers said.
Rivers hopes Shaquille O’Neal (right knee) will play Sunday against Indiana, and he said Jermaine O’Neal (left knee) is getting closer to returning.
“There’s help coming,’’ Rivers said. “I just can’t tell you when.’’
Nate Robinson averaged 16.5 points and 5.5 assists in his four starts during Rondo’s previous absence. Last night, he produced 14 points and five assists in 41 minutes.
The Hawks forced a few bad passes out of Robinson, so the Celtics started using Paul Pierce to run the offense.
“Paul basically became the point forward in the second half and it really worked out for us,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t know if we stumbled on it or if we were kind of forced to do it, but it was terrific.’’
Pierce finished with a season-high 10 assists to go with 15 points, dishing out seven dimes in the second half as the Celtics took control.
“I knew I was going to have to be more of a playmaker,’’ Pierce said. “I just tried to feel the game out and try to give it what it needs. I didn’t need to try to have a great scoring night because of the guys we had going.
“Guys are going to be asked to play multiple roles. And that’s what we’ve got to do.’’
The Celtics’ bench dynamic also changes.
Marquis Daniels and Avery Bradley will see time at the point. Bradley’s playing time has been minimal (five games), and Rivers didn’t plan on using the rookie so soon.
“I’m going to try to protect his minutes as best I can, where he’s out with the better players, the starters,’’ Rivers said. “But listen, he’s just going to have to play some, for sure.’’
He’s on board Kevin Garnett (17 points, 14 boards) grabbed double-digit rebounds for the 14th time this season, and logged his 13th double-double.
“At this point, man, I’m trying to get every rebound out here,’’ Garnett said. “[Kendrick Perkins] is out. Shaq is out. I’m telling [Paul] to get out of there. Baby’s coming in there, he’s taking some of them.’’
Rivers was able to limit Garnett to 32 minutes. The most he’s played this season is 39 against Chicago Nov. 5.
“The fact that Kevin’s minutes are still around 31, 32, it’s going to be that regardless if you want me to be honest,’’ Rivers said. “Even if whoever’s on the floor is losing the lead for us, Kevin’s not going over those minutes. So it’s good right now.’’
Worth a second look Glen Davis was whistled for a flagrant foul in the second quarter that will likely be reviewed by the league. He grabbed Zaza Pachulia to stop him from getting a layup, and Pachulia flailed his arms to embellish the foul . . . Robinson dodged a technical foul in the first quarter after he smacked the ball out of Al Horford’s hands, leading Horford to punch him lightly in the shoulder. Horford got the tech instead . . . After playing two minutes in the first half, Von Wafer sat out the rest of the game with a sore lower back. “The last three games he’s come in for treatment on his back,’’ Rivers said . . . Early returns are in for All-Star balloting, and two Celtics are currently holding starting spots. Rondo’s 497,141 votes placed him second among Eastern Conference guards behind Miami’s Dwyane Wade. Garnett, a 13-time All-Star, has 456,111 votes, second to LeBron James among forwards in the East. Pierce is fourth among forwards, Allen is fourth among guards, and Shaquille O’Neal is second at center.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.