Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Rajon Rondo's amazing streak of having at least 10 assists in a game is the longest in the NBA in 17 years. He could have trouble extending it, however, against the Indiana Pacers.
Rondo hasn't been very productive in two losses to the Pacers this season for the Boston Celtics entering Saturday night's matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Celtics point guard has recorded a double-digit assist total in 15 straight games, the league's longest streak since Utah's John Stockton did it March 10-April 7, 1995. Stockton is also the last player to have at least 10 assists in at least 16 contests in a row, a 29-game run Jan. 25-March 30, 1992.
Rondo, averaging 13.2 assists during his streak, had nine in each of two January defeats to Indiana (34-21), totaling 17 points while shooting 8 of 21 in those losses. The Pacers allow an average of 19.3 assists, ranking among the NBA's stingiest clubs.
Ironically, Rondo was sidelined with an injured right wrist when Boston (30-24) won the third meeting between these teams, 94-87 on Jan. 27.
Both teams' leading scorers have had trouble getting shots to fall in the season series. Paul Pierce is averaging 19.7 points on 34.6 percent shooting versus the Pacers this season, while Indiana's Danny Granger is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 36.7 percent against Boston.
Granger, though, is averaging 26.3 points during the Pacers' four-game winning streak. He scored 13 of his 26 points Friday in the fourth quarter to help Indiana beat Oklahoma City 103-98 at home.
"These games are more important now," Granger said. "Each win can put us closer to a top seed or each loss can push us farther down. I think with that importance, I'm just playing with more of a sense of urgency."
Roy Hibbert added 21 points and 12 rebounds and Paul George grabbed a career-high 16 boards for Indiana, which now will seek to win five in a row for the first time since a six-game run Feb. 16-March 3.
"We're clicking offensively, we're coming defensively, we're rebounding the ball well," coach Frank Vogel said. "We know we can win in a variety of different ways."
Boston is trying to avoid losing three straight for the first time since a five-game slide Feb. 15-22. Coach Doc Rivers was unhappy his team blew an 11-point halftime lead in Thursday's 93-86 defeat at NBA-leading Chicago.
"I had to use two timeouts ... to remind us that we are actually having an NBA game tonight," Rivers said. "I thought this was the worst loss for us this year the way we approached the game."
Pierce scored a team-high 22 points, reaching 20 for the eighth time in nine games. Rondo had 12 assists for Boston, which holds a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
"We're not going to go places with that kind of mental toughness," Rivers told NBA.com. "It was a crime. We just thought we were cool tonight. We were the cool Celtics. No one wanted to work."
The Celtics' current skid has followed a five-game winning streak.
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