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Rondo's 20 assists pace Celtics in rout

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked after Saturday's game against the Toronto Raptors to explain point guard Rajon Rondo's floor game.

"I can't. It's an offense in itself," River said after Rondo returned from a one-game absence (a loss at the Brooklyn Nets) with an ankle injury. "We've always said that about him. We have an offense and then he creates another offense."

It was Rondo's second 20-assist game in his last five outings, leading Boston to a 107-89 win over the undermanned Raptors.

"He's a tough one," Rivers said. "I sit with a lot of coaches and we brainstorm how to guard him. And I love hearing them, because I know the wrong (ways). I don't ever say much, but it's hard because he's so smart. Now he's making his shot so it's a lot harder."

There was no guarantee Rondo would even play in this matinee, with the general feeling being he might return for Wednesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs after the weekend back-to-back. But he started and recorded his 33rd straight double-digit assist game, the third-longest streak in NBA history.

"I didn't know (about the second 20)," Rivers said. "I knew he had 20 today, I didn't know he had another 20. That's impressive."

Rivers was then asked about other point guards who could pile up assists in such a hurry.

"Passing spurts? There have been a couple," he said. "Jason Kidd in his heyday, Magic (Johnson) all the time, (John) Stockton, but think about it: I've named four or five guys; the league's been around a long time, so it's not a lot and he's one of them.

"He's a rare bird. I mean, he really is."

New teammate Courtney Lee said, "Oh, it's a lot easier," playing with Rondo "because he's Peyton Manning out there; he's picking the defense apart and he's getting the ball to guys in the right position to score.

"He was actually mad about the 20 assists; he thought he could have gotten 30."

As far as his health, Rondo quipped, "I'm back at about 79 percent. But I'll get some rest tonight and get back up to like 94. So, I'll be fine."

The Celtics frittered away most of a 16-point first-half lead and were ahead by four late in the third quarter. They then outscored Toronto 19-2 to blow it open and cruise to their fourth win in the last five games. It was their first win of the season by more than six points.

Rondo didn't even have to play for most of the fourth quarter and he took only four shots, making three for six points. He is averaging more assists (an NBA-leading 13.4) than points (13.3) per game.

Jason Terry scored 20 points, his high with his new team, and nailed three 3-pointers in a 2:05 span of the third quarter to help Boston pull away. Paul Pierce had 19 points, Kevin Garnett 15 (in just 17 minutes as he rested for Sunday night's game at the Detroit Pistons) and rookie Jared Sullinger had 12 points and 11 rebounds (both season and career highs).

Boston shot 56.6 percent from the floor for the game, and had 37 assists.

Andrea Bargnani and John Lucas led the Raptors (2-7) with 15 points apiece. The Raptors were just 21 for 31 from the foul line and Bargnani was just 5 for 14 from the field.

"It was almost like we had a rhythm going offensively, then we got out of kilter, stopped doing what we need to be doing, running the floor, attacking the paint," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "... That's part of the pain when you're learning."

The Raptors are battling an injury siege that includes guard Kyle Lowry, out since Nov. 6 with an ankle bruise. Landry Fields underwent elbow surgery last week and Alan Anderson is out with a foot injury. Lowry was averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game when he went down.

Notes: Rivers said he was never excited to play day games as a player. "We used to have tons of them," he said. "I never liked them, but we had a lot of them. With an afternoon game, as a player, if you were playing great you loved it that day. But if you were playing poorly, you always felt it was very difficult to pull yourself out of it, because you haven't had your normal mental preparation to get ready for the game." ... Guard Avery Bradley, slated to be out another month with double shoulder surgery, was in uniform and active Saturday, but not to play. Backup center Jason Collins was missing because of a family matter and Bradley dressed as the 12th man. ... Saturday was supposed to be a basketball/hockey doubleheader at TD Garden, with the locked-out Boston Bruins originally scheduled to host the Winnipeg Jets at night. ... Rivers, told Hostess had shut its doors, said, "Twinkies went out of business! That (stinks). I haven't had one in like 30 years now, but I'm sure it's still in my body." ... The Raptors host the Orlando Magic Sunday.
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