Sports

Rajon Rondo finally hits his stride for Celtics

Rajon Rondo got up for the Celtics’ 115-111 overtime win over New York Sunday, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Rajon Rondo got up for the Celtics’ 115-111 overtime win over New York Sunday, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists.

Early in the season, there was talk of trading Rajon Rondo. Then, there was a perceived All-Star Game snub.

Like waving a red cape before a bull, those are the types of things which get Rondo going. And, similar to the bull realizing he is getting excited about nothing more than a piece of cloth, Rondo eventually settled down once it was confirmed he was not going to be playing for New Orleans.

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Trade rumors will be dangling until the March 15 deadline, but they will not likely concern Rondo. Not after a three-game stretch in which Rondo has averaged 15.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 14.3 assists.

Rondo got up for the Celtics’ 115-111 overtime win over New York Sunday, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists. Part of the reason for Rondo stepping up his game might have been the matchup with the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin, though Lin was not in the lineup when Rondo went for 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 13 assists in the season opener in New York.

“Trade talks are a good motivating factor for him,’’ Kevin Garnett said of Rondo. “You know Rondo, he’s a competitive-type person. He was very motivated. This game had a lot of juice for him to come out and play the way he did.’’

The Celtics host Houston Tuesday night, and Rondo has set himself up with a difficult act to follow after having two triple-doubles in the last three games.

It has not been easy to know what to expect from Rondo this season. There was a possible deal with New Orleans involving Chris Paul. Then, once the season started, Rondo was going strong until he missed eight games after spraining his wrist in a fall.

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The All-Star invitation which didn’t come, plus general frustration with the Celtics’ performances got to Rondo late last month when he was ejected from a game and suspended for two more after throwing a ball at an official in Detroit.

Rondo booked a trip to the Bahamas, then had to cancel as he was named an Eastern Conference team injury replacement. Rondo scored 2 points in the All-Star game, then delivered a scoreless performance in the Celtics’ 86-83 victory over Cleveland.

Then, trade discussions cropped up again. Combine that motivating factor with matchups against Brandon Jennings of the Bucks and Deron Williams of the Nets, and it resulted in significant numbers by Rondo.

“I wouldn’t say I took over,’’ Rondo said after Sunday’s game. “I missed a lot of easy shots that I usually make, but it was a great win for us tonight. Everyone stepped up, Ray [Allen] and Brandon [Bass], P [Paul Pierce], we all made special efforts when it counted.

“Ever since the break, you know, it’s been a grind game for us. Regardless of where the wins come, we’ve been winning and that’s what it’s all about.

“It was a big win for us. You know, I think we were tied at the eighth seed, or seventh seed. But we tried to get a little separation tonight with a good win against a good team.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.
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