David Butler II/US Presswire
Rajon Rondo at work during Saturday's win over the Toronto Raptors.After missing Thursday's game in Brooklyn with a sprained right ankle, Rajon Rondo returned to action Saturday and picked up right where he left off, handing out a whopping 20 assists in Boston's 107-89 triumph over the Toronto Raptors.
It was Rondo's second 20-assist game of the season and the seventh 20-plus assist night of his career. Saturday's effort prolonged his double-digit assist streak to 33 games, and he's drawing closer to John Stockton (37) and Magic Johnson (46) in his pursuit of that record.
And yet teammate Courtney Lee suggested Rondo was playfully upset because he thought he could have put up an even more staggering assist number.
"He was actually mad about the 20 assists," said Lee. "He felt like he could have got 30 tonight."
It's not as outlandish a statement as you might think at first blush. Rondo dished out seven first-quarter helpers, putting him on pace to match Bob Cousy's single-game Celtics record of 28 assists. A second-quarter offensive funk by Boston, coupled with a lopsided fourth-quarter lead, conspired against Rondo, who still finished with the 20 helpers in a mere 32:12.
"It's a lot easier, because he's Peyton Manning out there," said Lee. "He's picking the defense apart. He's getting the ball to guys in the right position to score."
Lee probably would have helped his cause more if he had picked a certain New England quarterback for that football-themed comparison, but you get his point.
Ironically, Saturday's effort was the first time Rondo failed to register a double-double this season; he scored just six points on 3-of-4 shooting. That didn't stop an avalanche of MVP chatter after the game, which started with a Jason Terry snowball.
"I've said that from Day 1 that he's the best point guard in this league," said Terry. "This year he's definitely going to be in the talks when they're talking about MVP, if we can continue to win. The way he controls the game, his leadership, his ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor is what makes him special."
Rondo didn't back away from the MVP chatter noting, "Well, JT's on my side, so he's a little biased, but the MVP is in the picture. I would like to be one day. But, we've just got to keep winning."