|In glorious defeat, Rajon Rondo faces media music||02.16.12 at 1:10 am ET|
BOSTON — Give Rajon Rondo credit. Three days earlier, the Celtics point guard ducked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters after a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls. On Wednesday night, he faced the media music following a 98-88 loss to the Central Division-worst Pistons.
Silent in victory, vocal in defeat. Not that he really said all that much. So goes the enigma that is Rajon Rondo.
Upon scoring a career-high 35 points against Detroit three days after equaling his career best against Chicago, Rondo simply said, “I made some, I missed some.” For the record, he made 15 field goals and four free throws, missing 12 field goals and five free throws.
On Sunday, Rondo became the fourth player in NBA history to record 32 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and two steals in a single game, joining Magic Johnson (thrice), LeBron James and Reggie Theus. Wednesday’s performance brought his totals for the last two games to 67 points, 21 assists, 15 rebounds and six steals.
Rondo’s reaction? “The main thing is our record is 1-1 in these last two games,” he said.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics trailed the Pistons, 73-72. Detroit’s lead grew to six as Rondo sat the first 3:33 of the final frame, and even after his return the Pistons stretched the lead to 13 with just over five minutes remaining. The C’s never recovered, as just four of Rondo’s 35 points came in the final quarter.
“We gave them confidence,” said Rondo.
Through the first three quarters, Rondo had his way with the Pistons, scoring in a variety of ways from a variety of distances. He made his first 3-pointer since December. He dusted off his patented fake-behind-the-back-pass layup. And he even posted up 6-foot-3 Pistons starting point guard Brandon Knight, among others.
“I haven’t been there in a while,” said the 6-foot-1 Rondo. “I was joking with [Pistons assistant] coach [Dee] Brown earlier, but I wanted to try to take advantage of a smaller guy guarding me.”
Unfortunately, Rondo had to shoulder much of the offensive load, as Kevin Garnett (hip) missed his first game while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for only 20 points on 4-16 shooting.
“It’s difficult,” he said of his dichotic roles as scorer and distributor. “When you have it going yourself, my teammates kept telling me to stay aggressive, but at the same time I was just trying to get other guys involved.”
One guy Rondo managed to get involved was Chris Wilcox, starting in place of the injured Garnett. The pair connected on three of the starting power forward’s eight buckets. One of few Celtics running the break alongside Rondo, Wilcox scored a season-high 17 points (8-12 FG) and matched another season best with nine rebounds.
“I love playing with Chris,” said Rondo. “He’s probably one of the fastest bigs in the league, and I tell him to get out there and run with me, and he does a great job every night. We’re starting to get easy baskets in transition, and that’s what we need I think offensively. Chris has been playing great for us. We haven’t played much together at all, but these last two games we picked up a lot of minutes together, and we seem to have a little connection.”
After winning nine out of 10, the Celtics have now lost three of their past four games, dropping to 15-13 — four games behind the 76ers and only one game ahead of the New York Jeremy Lin‘s in the Atlantic Division. Not only that, but the C’s travel to Chicago on Thursday for a rematch with the 24-7 Bulls.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s basketball,” said Rondo. “We’ve got to keep our head. We have a tough game tomorrow. It’s a big win. It’ll be a big win for us if we can get it.”
Thursday night’s second leg of a back-to-back kicks off a string of five road games sandwiched around an All-Star Game that — barring injury — will not include Rondo as a reserve for the first time in three seasons.
“We want to look forward now,” finished Rondo. “Hopefully, this will bring us together — not that we’re a distant team or whatever — but the road seems to bring guys together, and hopefully this will do it for us and we’ll put a string of wins together.”
Give Rondo credit. Notice his longest answers came in response to questions about team success, not his own.
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