- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire
Rajon Rondo's defense might have set him apart vs. Chris Paul and the Clippers.LOS ANGELES -- His stat line won't garner national attention like some of his gaudy triple-doubles have this season, but Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo earned high praise from coach Doc Rivers for his efforts in Monday's 94-85 triumph over Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers.
This was the first meeting between Rondo and Paul since they were linked in trade talks coming out of the lockout. Often fueled by these type of matchups, some wondered how Rondo would respond, particularly with a national TV audience watching, this showdown with Paul and the Clippers.
Rondo finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with 10 assists, 6 turnovers, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds over 41 minutes. Sure, it's hardly the 18-point, 17-rebound, 20-assist effort he produced earlier this month against Jeremy Lin and the Knicks, but Rivers thought he made a similar impact on the game.
"I thought Rondo -- I don’t even know what he did offensively -- I just though, defensively, he was sensational," said Rivers. "He was absolutely wonderful. He had this one stretch where he switched a couple times [in pick-and-roll coverage] and we called a time-out and said, ‘Oh, no no. We’re not switching you off of Chris Paul, ever.’"
Paul finished with 14 points on 3-of-12 shooting with five assists, four rebounds, four turnovers, and two steals over 40:25. After the game he noted, "They defended us really well and forced us into some tough shots."
Like he does with the basketball on the court, Rondo spread around the praise for containing Paul.
"It was a team effort," he said. When a reporter noted that Rondo was at the front line of that defense, he added, "Yeah, but it’s a team effort. He wasn’t just going 1-on-1. It was pick-and-roll, that involves two people, so it was a team effort."
Asked if the matchup with CP3 brought a little something extra out of him, Rondo said simply, "No, I just wanted to get a win."
So much for limiting KG's minutes
After logging big minutes in an ultra-physical loss to the Lakers on Sunday, Kevin Garnett was pegged for low minutes on Monday night against the Clippers. It simply didn't happen.
Garnett chipped in 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks over 34:23. Extended runs at the start of the first and third quarters (when Boston had much of its success) made it hard to take Garnett off the floor despite Rivers suggesting he would before the game.
"I have to get [Garnett] back to [30 minutes per game], so we’re hoping that, somehow, we can get away with other guys on the floor [Monday]," said Rivers, who couldn't follow through on that plan given Boston's need to rally on numerous occasions. "Usually I don’t do that with Kevin on back-to-backs, I just thought [Sunday], that was a hard game. Going against [Lakers center Andrew] Bynum, those are hard minutes. So I want to keep him off the floor as much as I can."
Already over his allotted minutes, Garnett hit a monster turnaround jumper with 38.4 seconds remaining to prevent the Clippers from having a chance to tie. Not surprisingly, the clean look came after Rivers drew up a play coming out of a timeout.
"We knew [the Clippers] had been switching the whole game, so I told Paul [Pierce] that if he didn’t have a shot coming off [a screen] to come back to me, and he did," said Garnett. "And I hit it."
Garnett was one of numerous Celtics who went cold in the final three minutes of Sunday's loss to the Lakers and numerous players pointed to his big shots on Monday as a reason Boston emerged in a seesaw battle.
Loose Balls: No updates in Boston; Chauncey's absence in L.A.
* No updates on Wilcox, JO: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in Los Angeles for Monday's game, said he was flying home Tuesday to get the latest updates on Chris Wilcox (cardiac issue) and Jermaine O'Neal (left wrist). He did hint that both could miss the rest of the season, but said he wanted to consult with both the players and team doctors before making a firm decision on the future of those big men. As for Wilcox, Rivers said: "He’s going to do tests, I think [Tuesday] or [Wednesday]," said Rivers, who said he believed those tests might be run at the Cleveland Clinic, the same spot where Jeff Green underwent surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm in January. "We just don’t know [about Wilcox's future]. Obviously, it’s not a good situation, we know that. We’re just hoping for the best."
* Clippers missing Chauncey: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the Clippers' loss of Chauncey Billups is bigger than you might expect. "I don’t think people see how big that is. Obviously, on the floor, it’s big," said Rivers. "But just not having his presence, and when you're in a suit and tie, it’s not the same. Players don’t listen to guys in suits and ties, let me tell you, I know that as a fact."
* A bold dinner choice for Rondo: ESPN cameras showed a pregame shot of Rajon Rondo in the Celtics' locker room snacking on sushi while swigging lemon-lime Gatorade. An interesting meal choice, to say the least.
* No other options at big man: Rookie center Greg Stiemsma has been wearing a protective walking boot over his right foot recently. Asked after Monday's win how he's feeling physically, Stiemsma said he's fine (save for the usual bumps and bruises). When Rivers was asked before the game if he'd keep an eye on Stiemsma, he quipped, "I’ll keep an eye on him when he’s running by me. Other than that -- he’s not doing great [physically], but we don’t have another option right now. The one thing I went and told him is, 'If it gets to the point where you just can't play, you have to tell us. Other than that, you have to play injured.' We don’t have any other bodies."