BOSTON -- Rajon Who?
Thursday, on the night Kevin Garnett became the 16th NBA player to reach 25,000 points, the surging Celtics won their sixth straight game since losing Rajon Rondo for the season, hammering the rival Los Angeles Lakers 116-95.
No one is claiming Rondo isn't an outstanding player, or that the team wouldn't have developed consistency with Rondo at the point. After all, Boston did win a championship with Rondo. But since he was lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (the injury might not be as bad as was first thought but he won't play this year), the ball movement and the defense have been outstanding.
And the record is 6-0.
Thursday, the Celtics, who have climbed to seventh place, a game and a half out of sixth in the Eastern Conference, had six players score in double figures for the third time in the six games. They are averaging 24.2 assists per game during the streak.
This win was special, even with the Lakers hurting.
"It always feels good to give them the old fashioned beat down at your house," said Paul Pierce, who had 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists. "It doesn't matter what direction this team is going, there will always be a rivalry."
Garnett, who overcame two early fouls, scored 15 points in the game and now has 25,009.
"I'm sure some day I'll fall back and rock in my rocking chair having a cigar, thinking about what I've done," he said. "I'm sure it will make some sense to me."
His team is working hard to show the season didn't end when both Rondo and rookie Jared Sullinger (back surgery) were lost.
"I don't know what Danny (GM Ainge) and upper management has up their sleeves as far as making this team better," Garnett said. "But as players we can only control us. Right now we're in a rhythm."
Already leading by 14 at halftime, the Celtics hit the limping Lakers, playing without Pau Gasol (foot, out 6-8 weeks) and with Dwight Howard (shoulder) playing but limited, with 37 points in the third quarter, 14 of them in the final 2:40 of the quarter to go up by 26. The lead ballooned to 32 in the fourth quarter.
The loss was only the second in the last six games for the Lakers, who were playing Game 5 of a seven-game Grammy-forced road trip and got 27 points from Kobe Bryant. He sat out the fourth quarter. The Lakers also had a four-game TD Garden winning streak snapped and fell to 2-13 on the road this season against teams currently over .500.
Said Bryant, who also had seven rebounds: "The roof just kind of caved in on us and it gave them a lot of transition points and easy baskets. They were hot. I can't really remember them missing a shot in the third quarter ... they just played really well."
"They were the better team tonight," said LA's Metta World Peace, who was 2-for-13 from the floor, 0-for-5 from 3-point range (the team was 5-for-23 from Downtown).
Jeff Green came off the bench with 19 points, matching his season high, while fellow sub Jason Terry scored 15 and Chris Wilcox had eight points and a season-high nine rebounds, on another big night for the Boston reserves.
Howard had nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, fouling out with 5:07 left. He was 1-for-6 from the foul line, where the Lakers went 18-for-30 for the game.
Howard, challenged through the media by his teammates to play with the pain in his shoulder caused by a torn rotator cuff, was said to be a scratch but declared himself a game-time decision and started. It is clear to anyone watching he is not the same player because of the shoulder; and remember, he is also coming off back surgery.
The Celtics were hit with five fouls in a span of 39 seconds very early and two of them were on Garnett, in a span of 12 seconds. That sent Garnett to the bench after 2:08 and he didn't come back until the second quarter. He scored two quick baskets and then, with 8:09 left, scored again for the 25,000th.
During the next timeout, Garnett was saluted on the big board and by the crowd, each teammate congratulating him before he waved to the crowd. He had nine points in the quarter.
NOTES: With the Feb. 21 trade deadline getting closer, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge says he has no plans to trade Garnett or Pierce. "There aren't a lot of teams that are trying to pursue players of KG and Paul's age, and I just think that we value them more than other teams value them," Ainge told WEEI. ... Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't buy into the common belief this matchup has lost its luster because of the struggles of both teams, saying, "They still wear that same color; and we wear the same color. Through all of it, it's still the same thing, you enjoy the game because they are fun. Kobe is there; Kevin and Paul are there. It always will be fun. It's more, we're just playing right now; we're not dealing with anything. They have more firestorms going on. Give them credit, they've won six out of seven through it. In some ways, it may be helping them." ... With a blizzard coming into the Northeast, the Celtics will await the arrival of the Nuggets for Sunday night's game while the Lakers are scheduled at Charlotte Friday night. ... Bryant came in with 405 30-point games, which left him behind Michael Jordan (562), Wilt Chamberlain (515), Karl Malone (435) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (429). In different order, those are the four top scorers of all-time and Bryant is fifth on that list, too.