Celtics blow fourth-quarter lead in Rajon Rondo’s return, fall 107-104 to the Lakers
|01.17.14 at 10:01 pm ET|
In limited minutes, Rondo tallied eight points, four assists and two steals. However, he missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer to put a sour taste in the mouth of a TD Garden crowd that had waited anxiously to see the return of their revered point guard.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers (15-25) with 24 points and Kendall Marshall added 19 points, including a 3-pointer with just over one minute to put the Lakers ahead for good.
In defeat, Boston’s bench showed up in a big way against Los Angeles. Kelly Olynyk (25 points), Gerald Wallace (14 points) and Brandon Bass (10 points) all came off the bench with double-digit performances for the Celtics (14-27).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Bradley blues: Emerging star Avery Bradley shot poorly in his first game paired with Rondo in the backcourt. Bradley, who averaged 23 points per game in his previous three games, put together a dud of a night: 12 points on 5-for-20 from the field. His usually tip-top defense was also askew as Marshall (19 points, 14 assists) had his way with him at points. To Bradley’s credit, he nailed a big 3-pointer during a huge juncture in the game. With Los Angeles continually hanging around in late in the fourth, Bradley connected on a trey to put Boston up by eight with 4:11 left.
Gasol dominates: The only guy on a shockingly weak Lakers roster that Boston needed to control was Gasol. The Celtics failed to do that. Gasol eviscerated the C’s front line with a 24-point, 13-rebound, six-assist, zero-turnover night.
Late 3-point defense: With the Lakers down 104-96 with 3:11 remaining, Boston seemingly was in control. However, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Marshall hit 3-pointers in three straight possessions to turn an eight-point deficit into a one-point lead.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Rondo’s return: The anticipated return of Rondo went just about as well as one could have expected, considering his last game action came nearly a year ago when he suffered a serious knee injury. It took Rondo a while to get going – his first five minutes of play were highlighted by an air ball – but Rondo banked in a sweeping layup for his first points of the season. He just progressed from there and ended the game with a solid line of eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, and four assists in 19 minutes.
Bench boost: Boston led by six points at halftime thanks to a solid showing from the reserves. The unit posted 34 of the team’s 58 points, with five different bench players contributing positively. Olynyk (nine points, five assists, two rebounds) and Wallace (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) made the most out of their bench minutes in the half. In the first half, the bench shot 58.3 percent (14-for-24) from the field, compared to the starters who shot 35.5 percent (11-for-31). Their success did not stop there as Olynyk ended up leading the team in scoring with 25 points. Phil Pressey played well for the second straight game, posting eight assists –five in the second half — and six points as Rondo’s backup (although he accumulated 22 minutes, three more than Rondo).
Wallace: Wallace earned plaudits from coach Brad Stevens after the Celtics‘ slump-busting win against the Raptors. His numbers weren’t eye-popping (seven points, six rebounds), but his energy left an indelible mark on the game, and propelled a Boston team that lacked energy at time during its previous nine losses. Wallace played even better on Friday with 14 points, five assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Wallace’s last double-figure game was Nov. 25 (24 games ago) when he went for 17 against the Bobcats.