Celtics-Lakers Live: Rajon Rondo Returns In Defeat As Celts Lose 107-104

Rajon RondoFinal, Lakers win 107-104: Rajon Rondo’s return was not a victorious one.

Despite leading by as many as 13 points and holding an eight-point advantage with four minutes left, the Celtics (14-27) couldn’t close the deal against the Lakers (15-25). Pau Gasol finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Lakers. Kelly Olynyk had career-highs with 25 points and seven assists in the loss.

Rondo had eight points, four assists and two steals in his first game back from a torn ACL.

Fourth quarter, :16.2, Lakers 105-104: Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way, and the video is inconclusive. The Celtics worked hard to get a jump ball, sending Wesley Johnson to the circle with Gerald Wallace. The ball was tipped out of bounds, with possession initially awarded to the Lakers, but upon review it was called a “re-jump.”

Fourth quarter, :24.6, Lakers 105-104: The Celtics aren’t dead yet but they are on life support. Avery Bradley missed a runner, Ryan Kelly got the rebound and the Lakers called timeout.

Fourth quarter, :33.1, Lakers 105-104: Rajon Rondo missed a jumper the Lakers wanted him to take, but a strong defensive possession by the Celtics forced a 24-second violation. The Celtics have the ball back. They can’t take the final shot but they just need a bucket to take the lead.

Fourth quarter, 1:09, Lakers 105-104: Kendall Marshall hasn’t been much of a 3-point shooter in his career, but he just canned a big one. His corner triple gives the Lakers the lead with 69 seconds to go in what would be a gut-wrenching defeat for the Celtics.

Fourth quarter, 1:33, Celtics 104-102: Bodies are flying everywhere, passes are getting knocked away and shots are bouncing off the rim. It’s just a Celtics-Lakers game in 2014.

Olynyk continues his career night, firing a pretty bounce pass inside to Wallace for a layup. But Jodie Meeks responded with a three to pull the Lakers within two points. It’s officially crunchtime, only for the first time all season, the Celtics have a proven star to take the ball in the clutch.

Fourth quarter, 4:11, Celtics 102-94: Talk it over, Lakers, because you’re in trouble. Rajon Rondo re-entered and Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley kept up the pressure to force the Lakers into panic mode. Olynyk now has 25 points and Bradley’s cracked double digits with his corner three on the break to give Boston an eight-point edge.

Fourth quarter, 6:52, Celtics 95-89: Kelly Olynyk is going off and the Lakers look worried. I’m sort of worried, too. Is this the apocalypse?

Olynyk has a career-high 23 points as the Celtics look to give some cushion before Rajon Rondo’s re-entry. Olynyk is so hot, Pau Gasol was afraid to leave Kendall Marshall guarding him in the post, leaving Jared Sullinger wide open for a corner three.

Fourth quarter, 8:36, Celtics 88-85: Kelly Olynyk and Ryan Kelly can’t be stopped, apparently.

Olynyk and Kelly are rolling, having a mano a mano battle many fans wouldn’t recognize. Kelly drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within a point at 86-85, then Olynyk answered with a ridiculous fallaway jumper to give Boston some breathing room.

Yeah, it’s been a weird game.

End of third quarter, Celtics 82-76: Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk have been bumped from the starting lineup, but they are playing as well as anybody in the first unit tonight. They’ve combined for 23 points, teaming with Phil Pressey on a bench unit that is hustling and sharing the ball to stay a step ahead of the Lakers.

It will be interesting to see how Brad Stevens parcels out minutes to Rajon Rondo in the fourth quarter. Rondo’s on an explicit 20-minute limit and has already played more than 14. Expect to see Rondo around the 5:00 mark if this game stays close and Stevens wants Rondo in for the end.

Third quarter, 3:36, Celtics 74-66: The Celtics are not a better team without Rajon Rondo, but they have played better without Rondo in the last few minutes. With Rondo on the bench, the Celtics have extended a one-point lead into eight with Jeff Green and Avery Bradley both canning corner 3-pointers.

Third quarter, 6:26, Celtics 64-63: It took a while, but Rondo finally got his first assist of the 2013-14 season.

Rondo found Avery Bradley at the 11:33 mark of the third quarter for his first assist of the game. He then set up Jared Sullinger for a jumper to get the assist train off and running.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, Rondo isn’t the only guy rolling. Ryan Kelly continues to befuddle the Celtics with his pump fake, while Pau Gasol is downright dominant. Gasol’s working on 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists with plenty of time left to pad his stat sheet even more.

Halftime, Celtics 58-52: The first half was an unqualified success for Rajon Rondo, considering the circumstances. The same could be said for Pau Gasol.

Gasol’s having a terrible season, but he has been a workhorse tonight. He has 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and he’s done it efficiently; he is 6-for-9 from the field and has no turnovers.

Rondo enjoyed his eight-point spurt in the middle of the second quarter and was immediately yanked. Brad Stevens promised that he wouldn’t get caught up in the moment and keep Rondo in past his minutes restriction just because he was playing well, and Stevens was true to his word. Rondo has eight points, one rebound, one steal and no assists in 9:35 of floor time.

Gerald Wallace leads the Celtics with 12 points, followed by Kelly Olynyk, who has nine points while playing much better on the offensive end than the defensive end, where he is getting abused. When it wasn’t Gasol, it was Ryan Kelly, who made Olynyk his third pump-faked victim of the night by forcing Olynyk to leave his feet, then driving to the bucket for a dunk.

Second quarter, 2:52, Celtics 52-40: With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce gone, Rajon Rondo has free reign on offense. Maybe he’ll just be a 25-points-per-game scorer now, just for the heck of it.

Rondo has scored eight straight Celtics points in a 1:31 span to stretch Boston’s lead to 12 points. He’s done his damage with drives and by posting up Kendall Marshall. Aside from Jared Sullinger, Rondo is probably the Celtics’ best player on offensive post-ups, and Brad Stevens would be smart to exploit that area of Rondo’s game.

Second quarter, 5:22, Celtics 48-35: Brad Stevens warned that Rondo wouldn’t be 100 percent right away, but he sure looked like it in the last 21 seconds.

Rondo pulled his signature fake-behind-the-back-pass move to go high off glass for a layup and his first points of the game. On the next possession, he got the ball on the break, with Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger running with him, and faked a pass before taking it in by himself for a layup.

Spooked, Mike D’Antoni called a 20-second timeout. He just got Rondo’d.

Second quarter, 5:59, Celtics 44-35: Gerald Wallace and the Celtics are making sure Manny Harris, freshly called up from the D-League to fill out L.A.’s roster, knows there’s a big difference between the D-League and the Show.

Wallace has 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting, taking the likes of Harris and Jodie Meeks into the post to push them around. Wallace made a career out of hustle and muscle, which has been absent during his time in Boston. The presence of Rondo, who is back in after an extended stay on the bench, could be rejuvenating Wallace’s 31-year-old bones.

Second quarter, 9:41, Celtics 31-28: The first half of this game isn’t an instant classic, but the Celtics are doing plenty of encouraging things. Gerald Wallace has earned every one of his six points by moving without the ball, the latest coming on a backdoor cut off a bounce pass from Phil Pressey, who was standing well beyond the 3-point line after recovering a loose ball.

The ball movement has been good for the Celtics even without Rondo on the court. Maybe his presence alone is enough for his court vision to wear off.

End of first quarter, Lakers 25-23: By many measures, Pau Gasol is having the worst season of his career. But nobody would know it watching him tonight.

Gasol is owning the Celtics inside with eight points and six rebounds, plus three assists in 10 dominant minutes. He and Ryan Kelly, who has pump-faked Brandon Bass and Gerald Wallace out of their boots for a couple of jumpshots, are the difference.

The Celtics are shooting just 9-for-26 from the field, although Lakers not named Gasol and Kelly are just 6-for-15. It hasn’t been the most inspiring performance on either side, but that’s the be expected given where these teams are in the standings.

First quarter, 5:45, Lakers 11-10: Captain Rajon Rondo drew the raucous applause you would expect when he was introduced prior to the game. That’s right, Rondo is an official captain.

He was introduced as such with the starting lineups and the team’s official Twitter account tweeted a short while later that it wasn’t a slip-up by the public address announcer. Welcome the 15th captain of the Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo.

His first five minutes were about what you’d expect from a player of his caliber who hasn’t played in a year. He missed both shots he attempted and got one rebound before being subbed out at the 7:04 mark. The Celtics plan to monitor his minutes closely and play him as close to five minutes at a time as possible.

5:56 p.m.: Aside from Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol, none of the consequential players from the great Celtics-Lakers clashes of the past will be on the court tonight. The names on the fronts of the jerseys will be the same, but the names on the backs will be hardly recognizable to casual observers.

Still, the momentousness of the rivalry is not lost on Brad Stevens, who will be coaching against the Lakers for the first time.

“As a kid, that’s my introduction to the NBA,” Stevens said. “Every Sunday, or it seemed like every Sunday, the Celtics and Lakers were on. I know they weren’t on that often, but it certainly felt that way.

“Obviously, growing up in Indiana and the Celtics having that Indiana tie, an amazing, amazing history between the two teams that’s continued well beyond the ’80s, obviously that’s one of my early memories of NBA basketball.”

As a kid in Indiana, where Larry Bird is even more of a god than he is in Boston, Stevens naturally followed the Celtics in addition to his homestate Pacers. He never took a side in the Celtics-Lakers clashes, though, because he was more interested in the quality of the play than who came out the winner.

“I loved it. I loved both,” Stevens said. “Here’s what I liked: It was hard-nosed, tough, together basketball. At that time in your life, you know, you’re kind of looking and finding your passion and nothing fed the passion like watching those teams play.”

Rondo will make his return to game action tonight, as you may have heard. He will start and be on a strict minutes restriction of roughly 20 minutes.

The projected starters appear below.

Lakers
Jordan Hill
Pau Gasol
Wesley Johnson
Jodie Meeks
Kendall Marshall

Celtics
Kris Humphries
Jared Sullinger
Jeff Green
Avery Bradley
Rajon Rondo

10 a.m. ET: A nine-game losing streak in the rearview mirror, the Celtics get some reinforcements Friday.

Rajon Rondo is expected to make his return to game action after nearly a year on the sideline when the Celtics (16-22) host the Los Angeles Lakers (14-25) at TD Garden. The All-Star point guard’s return has been a horribly kept secret, with reports leaking a week ago that he would be back against the Lakers.

The Celtics need him. As a result of the losing streak, the Celtics dropped from first place in the Atlantic Division to within one loss of last place — quite the accomplishment given that only one team in the division is over .500. Rondo won’t save the Celtics right away. He is likely to begin on a strict minutes restriction, possibly as little as 18 to 20 minutes per game, but whatever small contribution he can give could be more than Jordan Crawford, Phil Pressey and Jerryd Bayless were able to provide.

Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.