Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Hands Out 14 Assists in C’s Super 98-80 Victory over Grizzlies

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Celtics Live Blog: Rajon Rondo Hands Out 14 Assists in C's Super 98-80 Victory over GrizzliesEnd of game, Celtics win 98-80: The Celtics wrap up a convincing victory over a quality opponent with every player except Sasha Pavlovic and Greg Stiemsma getting into the scoring column.

The Celtics overcame 20 turnovers by controlling the boards, 45-38, and getting double-digit scoring from some unlikely places.

Chris Wilcox scored 12 points in 12 minutes and rookie JaJuan Johnson had 10 points. Kevin Garnett led the way with 24 points and nine rebounds, posting game highs in both categories.

Rondo shrugged off some early turnover troubles to total 14 assists, tying the season high he first set on New Year's Day.

Fourth quarter, 2:43, Celtics 94-73: The Celtics parade in a lineup of Greg Stiemsma, E'Twaun Moore, Pavlovic, Johnson and Bradley. That's kind of like taking the victory formation at the end of a football game.

Garnett added a bank shot and a jumper to bring his scoring total to a game-high 24 points, along with nine rebounds. Pierce dropped two free throws before exiting, giving him 21 points and making him a perfect 10-for-10 from the line.

Fourth quarter, 6:17, Celtics 86-70: The Grizzlies started to get testy, and Mayo picked up a technical foul for arguing a non-call on Gasol. Pierce hit the technical free throw, bringing Boston's lead to 16 points.

Fourth quarter, 9:39, Celtics 76-63: There's a player on the opposite bench who can change the complexion of a game with his defense. Tony Allen can do some things defensively, but Avery Bradley might be building up the same reputation.

Following a jumper by Garnett and a 3 by Pietrus to extend Boston's lead, Bradley harrassed Conley into a turnover. Fundamental ball movement with Pavlovic and Johnson netted a dunk for the Purdue rookie off a feed from Bradley, giving the Celtics a 13-point cushion.

End of third quarter, Celtics 69-61: Gay took control in the final 2:17 of the third, scoring six consecutive points to pull Memphis within six points.

Johnson, showing off his all-around game, fired a pass into the post to Garnett for a dunk to end Gay's personal run, but for all the Celtics' streaky shooting and strong rebounding (they led the rebounding battle 36-26 through three quarters), it is just an eight-point game heading into the final frame.

Rondo has five turnovers, tying the amount he had Friday. Two more and he'll tie his season high for turnovers set Jan. 2 and Dec. 27.

Third quarter, 2:42, Celtics 67-55: Smelling blood, Allen and the Celtics stomped down hard on the Grizzlies. Allen drilled a corner 3 and drew a foul by Quincy Pondexter, turning a seven-point Celtics edge into an 11-point advantage after Allen completed the four-point play.

Hamed Haddadi hit two free throws, but Pietrus answered with a 3 to push the Celtics' lead to 12 points. Haddadi came back with a layup, but another jumper from the fast-emerging Johnson put Boston's lead back at a dozen.

Rondo has 13 assists and Johnson has six points on 3-for-4 shooting.

Third quarter, 6:21, Celtics 56-45: It's not rocket science. When the Celtics protect the ball, the Grizzlies don't have a chance.

The Celtics committed two turnovers in the first two minutes, helping the Grizzlies cut the Celtics lead to five points. Since then, the Celtics have not committed a single turnover and built the lead to 11 points.

Dead-eye 3-point shooting by Allen and Garnett helped, too. Allen hit two straight attempts and Garnett came through with a triple for the third straight game as the Celtics took their largest lead of the ballgame.

Memphis, shooting just 38 percent from the field, needs to force turnovers to generate offense.

Halftime, Celtics 43-35: If the Celtics continue to take care of the basketball, they are 24 minutes from running away with this thing.

Boston committed only two turnovers in the last 6 minutes, 40 seconds of the first half. Limiting turnovers spurred the C's to a 16-3 run to end the half despite shooting just 10 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

Here's the good, the bad and the so-so.

The Good: Chris Wilcox was beyond good in the first half. He gave a game's worth of production in his 6:23, hitting all four shots he took and hitting both his free throw attempts for 10 points. His four rebounds were one off the team high. … Jermaine O'Neal seems to get up to face the league's top big men. O'Neal had three rebounds, two blocked shots and committed only one foul in 18:14. His four points on 2-of-3 shooting were a bonus. … Rudy Gay didn't touch the ball much, but he hit two of his four field goal attempts and had two assists. He also grabbed five rebounds, tying Paul Pierce for the game high in that category.

The Bad: Marreese Speights loves to shoot, and when the one-dimensional forward's shot isn't falling, he's close to worthless. Speights went 1-for-5 with two rebounds and a blocked shot in 12:41, but he can heat up quickly in the second half. … Ray Allen finally got on the board with 1:49 left in the half, but he was 1-for-7 in the first half, including 0-for-4 from downtown. … Marc Gasol committed six turnovers and had zero assists, a stunning number for the excellent passing big man. He shot 3-for-9 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line for seven points.

The So-so: Rajon Rondo was up and down as he continued to work back from a sprained right wrist. When he was good, he handed out 10 assists and had two steals to spark the Celtics. When he was bad, he threw uncatchable passes and allowed the Grizzlies to seize control of the game. … Mike Conley had four assists and two turnovers but scored only four points while missing all three 3-point attempts. He was 2-for-7 from the floor in 22 minutes.

Second quarter, 1:11, Celtics 43-34: Pierce and Allen could not find their shots for most of the first half, but everything changed after Cunningham hit a jump shot to extend Memphis' lead to 32-27.

The Celtics took off on a 16-2 run that included 3's by Pierce and Allen, with a two-handed slam by O'Neal from Rondo providing the exclamation point and giving Rondo his 10th assist.

Second quarter, 5:13, Celtics 34-32: Pierce and Rondo turned the tables on the Grizzlies, forcing turnovers to take back the lead.

Rondo picked Speights' pocket and was fouled in transition by Conley. Rondo was able to hit one of two to tie the game at 32-32.

Pierce then slipped in to steal the ball from Mayo and shared the ball nicely with Rondo on a 2-on-1 fast break. Pierce finished with a quick dunk off Rondo's seventh assist.

Second quarter, 6:40, Grizzlies 32-27: Sometimes I think they should pay me to watch basketball or something.

As predicted, the Grizzlies marched into the lead due to Celtics turnovers. After committing only three in the first quarter, the Celtics fumbled away the ball five times in the first five minutes of the second quarter.

Dante Cunningham was the greatest recipient of the Celtics' carelessness, scoring six points early in the second quarter. O.J. Mayo's 3-pointer tied the game at 27-27 and his three-point play gave Memphis its first lead since 5:38 left in the first quarter.

Second quarter, 8:27, Celtics 26-24: Rondo played a great first 10 minutes with four points, four assists and two rebounds, but he allowed the Grizzlies back into range with two bad turnovers.

First he attempted a football pass to Bradley, but the pass was too long and Bradley had to catch the ball too far under the hoop to convert the layup. Rondo then left his feet on a dribble drive and left his feet early, making the mistake of passing where the cutting Bradley had been, not where he has cut to (which was wide open underneath the basket).

Johnson hit a long jumper for another basket. His offense could prove invaluable off the bench for Boston.

End of first quarter, Celtics 24-16: Seldom is a quarter as easy to asses as this one. Wilcox' hustle points were nice and the Celtics' rebounding and defense were good touches, but the Celtics lead because they did not turn the ball over often in the first quarter.

Memphis feeds off turnovers, leading the NBA in steals, and the Celtics committing only three turnovers in the first is directly responsible for building the lead so far. As long as the Celtics take care of the ball, they should be able to make due despite the Grizzlies' athleticism and depth.

First quarter, :27.3, Celtics 22-16: Gay might be hurt for the Griz, which would be even worse news on an afternoon when the Celtics have gotten offense from some unlikely sources.

An odd lineup of Wilcox, JaJuan Johnson, Pierce, Avery Bradley and Mickael Pietrus gave the Celtics two baskets in a minute span, including a double-pump layup by Johnson.

First quarter, 2:09, Celtics 18-14: The best frontcourt player on the floor in the first 10 minutes wasn't the future Hall of Famer Garnett or the All-Star Gasol, but the 10th-year veteran Wilcox.

Wilcox leads the Celtics with eight points after contributing to a 10-0 flurry that gave the Celtics their first lead of the game. His dunk, bank shot and putback marked the first time all game that the Celtics had clearly been more active than the young and energetic Grizzlies.

First quarter, 5:38, Grizzlies 12-10: All right, the ruling is in and Chris Wilcox has to play more. Doc Rivers clearly agrees.

Wilcox checked in for Garnett at the 6:23 mark and took less than 30 seconds to make a mark, finishing a layup on an assist from Rondo. With the Celtics thin down low in this game due to Bass' absence, Rivers has to watch his post rotation of Garnett, O'Neal and Wilcox closely. Gasol is one of the best centers in the league and he will take advantage of any fatigue shown by the Celtics' big men.

First quarter, 7:32, Grizzlies 10-4: The Grizzlies are the worst combination as an opponent for the C's. They defend like crazy and can run and score with the best of them.

Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, two surefire All-Stars, showed off their offensive arsenal. Gasol hit a short jumper and a sweeping hook shot before Gay added a tough leaner over Garnett.

12:15 p.m.: Scratch Allen. After giving no indications he would not play, the former Celtic was replaced by Sam Young in Memphis' starting lineup.

That's good news for Allen, who was in for a long day of being hassled by one of the best defenders in the league.

11:55 a.m.: Old friend Tony Allen is back in Boston as a member of the Grizzlies, and the former Celtic has become something of a cult hero in his new home.

Memphis has fallen for Allen's hard-nosed defense, but the eighth-year veteran out of Oklahoma State has made an impact on offense this season like never before. Allen is averaging 10.8 points per game, just off his career pace of 11.5 in 2006-07.

Allen's reputation for defense, which was built in Boston, took on new form last year. In one memorable game, Allen complained that Thunder superstar Kevin Durant was granted too many touch fouls on the perimeter, so Allen held his hands behind his back while covering the NBA's leading scorer.

11:30 a.m.: In a twist, it's Bass who will miss Sunday's game while O'Neal plays.

Indications were that Bass would start after he practiced with the first team Saturday and O'Neal had an MRI on his right knee. But O'Neal told reporters he was playing and Bass is expected to miss Sunday's game and possibly a few more with a sore right knee, although Bass' injury does not seem to be serious.

11 a.m.: Rondo was straightforward about how his sprained wrist limited him in practices, admitting Saturday that the eight field goals he attempted Friday against the Knicks were essentially his only shots since his eight-game absence began Jan. 18.

Rondo is back, but veteran center Jermaine O'Neal could be out. O'Neal reportedly had an MRI on his right knee and will be a game-time decision Sunday.

The Grizzlies, who were the Cinderella of last year's NBA playoffs in beating the top-seeded Spurs and then taking the Thunder to seven games, are a disappointing 10th in the Western Conference. They have lost five of their last seven games and have played much of the season without forward Zach Randolph, who was tore his right MCL in the fourth game of the season.

The projected starting lineups, assuming O'Neal cannot play, are below.

Grizzlies
Marc Gasol
Marreese Speights
Rudy Gay
Tony Allen
Mike Conley

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo 

8 a.m.: The Grizzlies travel to Boston for a Sunday matinee before every red-blooded American turns their attention to the big football game going on in the Hoosier State.

Rajon Rondo's return after an eight-game absence produced mixed results Friday. The Celtics won, but the point guard clearly wasn't as sharp as usual with seven points, seven assists and five turnovers in 34 minutes. Coach Doc Rivers even turned to Avery Bradley for a long stretch in the fourth quarter, showing the value Rivers puts in Bradley's defensive pressure.

The Celtics hope Rondo's second game back is a bit less stressful. The Grizzlies would take a win any way they can get it, having lost five of their last seven games.

Join us for updates and analsis during the game, which is scheduled for a nice-and-early noon tip-off.

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