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The Three-Pointer: Rajon Rondo has a lot to prove

11.09.10 at 12:03 am ET
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Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) goes for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010.

Rajon Rondo finished 3-1 against point guards in his toughest four-game stretch of the season. (AP)

Remember that scene in the movie “Billy Madison” when Adam Sandler apologizes to Steve Buscemi for teasing him in high school, so Buscemi crosses him off his “kill list”? You kind of getting the feeling that NBA point guards should start finding reasons to apologize to Rajon Rondo.

With the possible exception of a stretch in late February and early March — when Rondo will face Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings in consecutive games — the Celtics point guard won’t face another stretch like he has over the past four games.

In six nights, Rondo faced Jennings, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd, finishing 3-1  — with the defeat arriving in an 89-87 loss to Kidd’s Mavericks Monday night in Dallas.

Despite battling mild plantar fasciitis, Rondo outplayed them all. See for yourself …

Celtics 105, Bucks 102 (OT)

  • Rondo: 17 points, 7-of-10 field goals, 15 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 6 turnovers
  • Jennings:  13 points, 5-of-13 field goals, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers

Celtics 110, Bulls 105 (OT)

  • Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-10 field goals, 11 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Rose: 18 points, 8-of-19 field goals, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 steals, 6 turnovers

Celtics 92, Thunder 83

  • Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-8 shooting, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Westbrook: 16 points, 6-of-16 shooting, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 8 turnovers

Mavericks 89, Celtics 87

  • Rondo: 11 points, 5-of-15 shooting, 15 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Kidd: 0 points, 0-for-5 shooting, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers

In all, Rondo averaged 12.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 12.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 4.5 turnovers. Defensively, he allowed the other four to produce 11.8 points on 35.9 percent shooting, 8.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 5.0 turnovers.

The difference, though, went beyond the numbers. Rondo dictated the tempo against each of them on offense and disrupted the normal flow of his opponents’ games on defense.

Monday night’s game was the first game of the season that Rondo’s jump-shooting woes from previous seasons caught up to him. In the final moments, the Mavericks denied Ray Allen and Paul Pierce the ball, while Shawn Marion left Rondo wide open for a game-winning 3-point attempt. It clanged off the back of the rim — dropping his 3-point percentage to 40 percent (2-of-5) this year.

This summer, Rose, Westbrook, Curry and Chauncey Billups all made the gold-medal winning Team USA roster at the World Championships over Rondo. So far, he can cross Rose and Westbrook off his version of the “kill list.”

If he puts as much energy into his long-range shooting as he does into obliterating those who have crossed him in the past, he appears capable of leaving all of them in his wake.

Next up: Billups’ Nuggets on Dec. 8 (with rematches against Rose and Westbrook in between). It’s the year of the point guard, and Rajon Rondo just might be THE point guard.

THE O’NEAL BROTHERS’ HEALTH WOES ARE BEING FELT

As most critics did, the Celtics must have anticipated that Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal would miss some time this season. It’s just unclear whether they projected they’d struggle with injuries this much, this early.

Shaq was averaging 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20 minutes over the first three games before Amar’e Stoudemire knocked knees with him and forced him out of the last five games.

There are two good things the C’s can take from Shaq’s season so far: 1) When healthy, he’s given them exactly what they need; and 2) Shaq’s injury was more of a fluke than wear-and-tear.

On the other hand, Jermaine O’Neal — who missed the second half of Monday’s game with discomfort in his left knee — has averaged 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 18 minutes — playing six-and-a-half of the C’s eight games while struggling with hand and knee injuries.

There are two bad things the Celtics can take from Jermaine’s season so far: 1) He has yet to give the Celtics a significant contribution; and 2) Already having undergone a minor procedure on his knee, Jermaine’s injuries are the result of wear-and-tear, which means it’s not likely to get too much better any time soon.

The Celtics’ top five players — a category that includes Glen Davis, rather than either O’Neal — are all averaging more minutes than Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge would like, and the poor health of the O’Neals isn’t going to help limit that.

PAUL PIERCE CONTINUES TO REBOUND

Last season, Paul Pierce grabbed just 4.4 rebounds per game — the lowest average of his career by almost a full rebound.

Rivers has said it time after time: When Pierce rebounds, the Celtics win games. This season? Pierce has seen his average climb to 6.3 boards a game.

While that didn’t translate into a victory Monday night, when Pierce grabbed seven rebounds, the C’s have won five of six games when Pierce hauls in at least five rebounds.

Read More: brandon jennings, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Jermaine O'Neal
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