BOSTON — On the 22nd day, Rajon Rondo rested.
After playing eight games in a 20-day span, Rondo got the night off Friday when the Boston Celtics hosted the Sacramento Kings. Rondo was held out of the game as he dealt with “general soreness” from Wednesday’s game, in which he played 32 minutes in a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens made the final call, but he leaned heavily on the opinions of head athletic trainer Ed Lacerte and Rondo himself, the coach said prior to the game.
“Rondo’s been very, very good about keeping us posted on how he’s feeling,” Stevens said. “I thought he was going at a different rate the other night. As well as he played against Orlando [on Sunday], a lot of it was measured, in the halfcourt. Against Philly, it was full court, pushing the pace. It was at a different level of ‘oomph’ than the game before. For whatever reason, he just didn’t feel great afterward.”
The Celtics turned out to be just fine without their floor general Friday, riding 31-point, 16-rebound effort by Jared Sullinger to a 99-89 win over Sacramento. It was their third straight win overall and their second win without Rondo since his return Jan. 17. Rondo has averaged 8.4 points and 6.9 assists in between team-ordered rests on back-to-backs and odd single games like Friday’s.
Stevens added that Rondo was unlikely to play in Milwaukee on Monday, the day after the Celtics play the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden.
Rondo has never been known as the most patient of people, but either the injury or maturity has motivated him to pull back a bit. He asked for a brief rest against the Sixers, against whom he played the most minutes he’s played in any game this season, and apparently he didn’t fight Stevens’ decision Friday, even though Rondo had not suffered a setback and was merely being held out as a precaution.
“Obviously, you’re collaborating with the players and asking them how they feel,” Stevens said. “The last thing you want to do is put a guy out there who doesn’t feel good. I think he realized in those nine games, it was probably a little bit of a shock to his system.”
Avery Bradley was also sidelined against the Kings, although Stevens is less optimistic for his quick return. After undergoing treatment and testing his sprained left ankle Friday morning, Bradley opted out of the game prior to the team’s pregame walkthrough. Bradley missed five games in late January due to the initial injury, which he re-aggravated in Philadelphia.
With Rondo and Bradley out, Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace started in Boston’s backcourt Friday. Wallace responded by nearly tallying a triple-double with eight points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, while Jerryd Bayless came off the bench to score 19 points, his most in a Celtics uniform.
Injuries open up opportunities, upon which Wallace and Bayless capitalized against the Kings.
“They know they’re going to play,” Stevens said. “They know there’s a great opportunity. When they make a mistake, the coach might look down the bench, but the bench isn’t very deep. So you know you’re going to get ample opportunity and you take advantage of it.”