Rajon Rondo Will Be Key Playmaker For Celtics Against Ailing Devin Harris, Nets

Rajon Rondo Will Be Key Playmaker For Celtics Against Ailing Devin Harris, Nets The injury bug won’t be exterminated any time soon, but that doesn’t mean the Celtics are showing any signs of slowing. The C’s keep getting more and more banged up, and yet they just keep winning. Friday night’s victory over Chicago, in which they led wire to wire thanks to Kevin Garnett‘s heroics, was win No. 6 in a row.

Next up are the New Jersey Nets, whom the Celtics beat at home a week and a half ago, earlier in their winning streak. Now, the C’s will hit the road and look to take them down again.

When and Where

Celtics at Nets
Sunday, Dec. 5, 1 p.m. (CSNNE)
Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the second of four meetings between the Celtics and Nets this season. The C’s won the first at the TD Garden, 89-83, on Nov. 24. The Nets started strong in that game, taking an early lead, and Delonte West went down with a broken wrist before halftime. But the C’s battled back, getting 25 points and 11 rebounds from Shaquille O’Neal in a dramatic win. Shaq and the Celtics will look to duplicate that feat on the road.

KEY MATCHUP

Rajon Rondo vs. Devin Harris
Harris is a scoring machine. He always has been. He dropped 20 on the Celtics last week without breaking a sweat, mostly by using his athleticism to get to the basket and create his shot in the mid-range. But Harris has been hobbled this week by a strained left knee — assuming he returns Sunday, he might not be the superb shot-creating athlete the C’s are used to. Rondo can come out ahead in this matchup if he’s the healthier, more explosive point guard.

STARTING LINEUPS

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Shaquille O’Neal

Nets
Point guard: Devin Harris
Shooting guard: Anthony Morrow
Small forward: Travis Outlaw
Power forward: Kris Humphries
Center: Brook Lopez

STAT SHEET

Celtics

  • Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 17 rebounds in the Celtics’ win Friday night over the Bulls. He threatened his first 20-20 game since his Celtics debut back in 2007, when he had 22 and 20 against the Wizards.
  • Rajon Rondo leads the NBA in assists per game with 14.1. Chris Paul is a distant second at 10.5.
  • Paul Pierce has career averages of 22.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game against the Nets.

Nets

  • Travis Outlaw led the Nets with 21 points their Friday loss to the Bobcats. He’s had four games of 20-plus this season.
  • Brook Lopez is fifth in the NBA with 72 personal fouls.
  • Kris Humphries leads the Nets in rebounds per game with 8.7.

BLACK AND BLUE

Celtics

  • Jermaine O’Neal is out with a knee injury. He hopes to return to practice next week.
  • Delonte West is expected to miss at least three months with a broken wrist.
  • Kendrick Perkins has a torn ACL and will be out until 2011.

Nets

  • Devin Harris has missed the Nets’ last two games with a strained left knee. He is probable to return Sunday.
  • Terrence Williams has missed seven of the Nets’ last eight games with a strained left calf. He is also probable to return.

OUTLOOK

When one point guard’s away, the other will play. Devin Harris had an impressive scoring night last week against the Celtics, in the absence of Rajon Rondo; with Harris injured this time around, it’s Rondo’s turn to step up. Harris might play against the C’s, but he likely won’t be at full strength, which opens the door for Rondo. It won’t necessarily be with his scoring, but one way or another, Rondo will have a chance to take over the game. Maybe he dishes out 20 assists; maybe he runs the break and gets the Celtics’ transition offense going. Maybe both. With Harris ailing, anything’s possible.

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