BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Celtics may be without Rajon Rondo again, but so far Nate Robinson is filling in nicely. Facing the New Jersey Nets may soften the blow of another absence by the NBA’s assists leader.
The Celtics may have Robinson starting at the point again as they look to re-establish their dominance of the Nets on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Boston (10-4) isn’t sure if Rondo is healthy enough to return from a strained left hamstring that has forced him to miss two games, leaving the team without the speedy guard’s 14.3 assists per game.
While Rondo’s continued absence could turn into a major problem, Robinson has been impressive in his first two starts of 2010-11.
The guard scored 16 points and dished out a season-high 10 assists in a 99-76 win at Atlanta on Monday. That effort came a night after Robinson put up a season-high 22 points only to see Boston lose 102-101 at Toronto in a performance the team used as motivation against the Hawks.
“Guys were (ticked) off,” said swingman Paul Pierce, who had 13 points Monday and leads the team with an average of 19.9. “That’s the way we should be every night. We should never have to use losses to motivate us.”
The Celtics may find themselves in a similar situation against the Nets (5-9) after losing the most recent matchup 104-96 at home on Feb. 27 with Pierce out injured. That defeat ended their 12-game winning streak in the series, including a five-game run at home.
Potentially having Rondo back could help Boston begin working on a new winning streak. He’s hitting 67.2 percent of his shots to average 18 points and 9.2 assists over the last six meetings with New Jersey.
Robinson hasn’t been nearly that effective, averaging 12.2 points and 3.3 assists in his last six games against the Atlantic Division rival with Boston and New York.
The Nets are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since beginning the season 2-0, and will likely rely on center Brook Lopez and guard Devin Harris to do it.
The duo came up big in Tuesday’s 107-101 win over Atlanta, as Lopez connected on 12 of 19 for a season-high 32 points and nine rebounds while Harris scored 27 points with nine assists. Following the win coach Avery Johnson explained that he challenged the team’s co-captains during a 1-3 road trip, which was capped with a 107-103 loss at Denver on Saturday.
“They’ve been challenged behind the scenes,” Johnson said. “Two guys that we rely heavily upon came through. Now what I’m showing them is if they can consistently have that aggression and that attacking attitude, it makes us a better ball club. They don’t have many nights with this team where they can take off.”
Lopez leads the Nets with 18.3 points per game, while Harris is second at 17.6. They combined for 48 points, eight rebounds and eight assists at Boston in February.
Motivating his players isn’t the only thing that’s kept Johnson busy. He suspended Terrence Williams for two games Tuesday after the swingman repeatedly broke team rules.
Johnson wouldn’t give specifics, but stated that Williams – averaging 6.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists – has been fined a couple of times, and the message hasn’t sunk in.
© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.