Boston guard Rajon Rondo might not have been 100 percent when he returned to the starting lineup Wednesday after sitting out Sunday's game in New Jersey, but the Celtics were shooting five percent better from the field this season with Rondo on the court, and that number was even higher in taking down the Nuggets.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Celtics were 27-of-42 (64.2 percent) from the field over the 30 minutes 6 seconds that Rondo was on the floor Wednesday, accumulating 20 assists (13 of which belonged to Rondo) and finishing at plus-20 in the plus/minus during that span. Without Rondo, Boston was a mere 11-of-26 (42.3 percent) with only six assists and a minus-4.
Paul Pierce has been a chief beneficiary of Rondo's time on the court. That continued Wednesday with Pierce scoring 15 of his 17 points with Rondo on the floor.
"I thought Rondo was good, really good as a matter of fact," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Rondo could be seen stretching at the end of the Boston bench in the second half, trying to loosen up as he battles a sore left hamstring and plantar fasciitis. He looked a half-step slow defensively, which the Nuggets exploited with dribble-drive penetration (particularly in the first half). Rivers said he was unaware of any injury that might have cropped up, noting that team trainer Ed Lacerte would alert him on the plane to Philadelphia if there was something to be concerned about.
Rondo's return certainly fueled the Celtics at the start as they posted their second-biggest, first-quarter outburst (35 points) of the season (topped only by 39 points in Atlanta).
"[Denver is] a running team, but we got stops," said Rivers. "We were able to run, get easy baskets, and then we were able to set our defense. And the other thing is our players, they're very unselfish. The ball just finds the open guy, no one's holding onto the ball."
Especially not Rondo, who clearly prefers to dish it.
--DANIELS DOWNPLAYS THUMB INJURY, SAYS HE'S FINE--
Celtics reserve guard/forward Marquis Daniels appeared to jam his right thumb fielding a hard pass from Nate Robinson in the second quarter of Wednesday's game, but said afterward that it's not a concern for him.
"It's just a little jam," said Daniels. Asked how it happened, he smiled and looked in the direction of Robinson before playfully announcing, "Nate threw me a bad pass. I'm cool though."
Daniels tore ligaments in his left thumb last season and didn't help the injury fielding a hard pass from Rondo during a practice session. Daniels ultimately underwent surgery and missed extended time. But this injury is on the opposite hand and, while it's his shooting hand this time, he eased any fears.
"A little swelling," he said, "but it's nothing a little ice can't heal."
--LOOSE BALLS: SHELDEN'S RETURN, DAVIS TRIPLE-CHARGED--
* Not-so-seldom Shelden: Old friend Shelden Williams returned to the Garden Wednesday as a member of the Nuggets. Williams has started each of the Nuggets' 22 games, averaging 5.6 points and 6.3 rebounds over 20.8 minute per game entering Wednesday's tilt. Williams chipped in 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals over 14:46 against the Celtics, but was not on the court with the starters to open the second half.
"I’m glad to see Shelden do well," said Rivers. "He was great for us; him and [Brian Scalabrine] were our two utility guys last year. We lost both of them, and one of them is starting and playing well, so it’s good. He does what he does, he’s going to rebound, he’s really going to offensive rebound. He’s going to keep quiet and do his job. That’s just Shelden Williams."
Williams averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in 54 appearances for Boston last season. He filled in admirably at the start of the season for injured Glen Davis, but soon faded from the rotation (save for some cringe-worthy time late in the NBA Finals).
* J.O'Neal braces for more activity: Rivers didn't have an update on Jermaine O'Neal's on-court workouts this week (noting he's "got my own worries right now"), but did say that O'Neal got fitted for a new brace for his left knee Wednesday. O'Neal is working out individually in Waltham with the goal of being cleared by the medical staff this weekend, which could put him back in full-squad drills next week (and bring him another step closer to potential game action later this month).
* Charge watch: Just when it seemed like Davis couldn't outdo himself in regards to charges taken, he recorded his first three-charge night of the season (absorbing offensive fouls from Al Harrington, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson). Davis now has drawn 25 charges for the season with eight multicharge games. The Celtics now have drawn 39 charges as a team.