HANG TIME, Texas — Let’s face it. Maybe we’re getting past the point in the debate about whether Rajon Rondo has eclipsed Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Tony Parker as the best point guard currently playing the game.
Now he’s closing in on history.
After sitting out Thursday’s loss at Brooklyn with a sprained right ankle, Rondo returned to the Celtics lineup for his second 20-assist game of the season and his 33rd consecutive time of dropping double-digit dimes. That’s the thin air of the gods. That puts him only four behind John Stockton’s best string of 37 straight and at least gives him a distant peek at Magic Johnson’s all-time record of 46 in a row.
“Something I look forward to every game is just trying to make my teammates happy. And somehow I keep getting to 10,” Rondo said. “Tonight it was a collective team effort as far as assists.
“I’m making some OK passes — just taking what the defense gives me. It means my teammates are making shots.”
So, give him one more big assist in spreading around not only the wealth, but the credit to his teammates.
This was an entirely different team than the one that went down to the Nets without Rondo two days earlier. The Celtics came out running and attacking the Raptors as he dished off for seven assists in the first quarter alone. When Toronto tightened things up in the second half, first he executed a perfectly-placed lob to Chris Wilcox for a dunk and his 19th assist and then drew the defense to him and whipped the ball to a wide open Jason Terry for a jumper and No. 20.
There’s no question that Kevin Garnett is still the snarling, barking face of the Celtics — the first name that comes to mind when you think who gets under the skin of opponents and who can be the constant irritant and defensive stopper that makes an aging Boston team still a real threat in the Eastern Conference.
Paul Pierce is there to make the tough clutch baskets that have always been his trademark, while Terry has moved nicely into the spot in the lineup vacated by Ray Allen’s move to Miami.
But the time has come to face the facts. If the Celtics are going go far and make another deep playoff run, they’ll be riding on the talents of Rondo, which are somehow still under-appreciated.