- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- After Rajon Rondo turned in one of the most noteworthy triple-double performances in Boston Celtics history, dishing out a jaw-dropping 24 assists -- and putting a serious charge into Bob Cousy's single-game franchise record of 28 -- in Friday's 105-101 triumph over the New York Knicks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers jokingly tried to downplay the feat by bringing up his own glory days.
"More than 24, that's all I'm going to say. He's done nothing," said Rivers, barely able to keep a straight face when asked what his career high for assists was during a 13-year NBA career. "No, that's pretty impressive. I think I had 25 one time. No, let's say 28 and let the stat-checkers find it later. I had Dominique [Wilkins] then and if I passed to him, he was going to shoot. That's how you get assists."
Sorry, Coach. A cursory glance at the Atlanta Hawks' media guide reveals that Mookie Blaylock holds the team's single-game record with 23 assists, so clearly time has clouded your mind.
In fact, Rivers' best performance is listed as a 21-assist effort on March 4, 1986 against the 76ers, his only time topping the 20-assist plateau in a Hawks uniform.
All of which might make what Rondo accomplished Friday all the more impressive. Despite a sluggish start plagued by three first-half turnovers, Rondo dished out six assists in the first frame, four in the second, and seven in both the third and fourth quarters.
Along the way, Rondo also produced 10 points and 10 rebounds in 45 minutes, 20 seconds of floor time. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Rondo's effort matched Isiah Thomas' record for most assists in a triple-double (set Feb. 7, 1985). It also placed him second on Boston's single-game list, and in front of Nate Archibald's 23-assist performance on Feb. 5, 1982.
Like any good point guard, Rondo dished praise everywhere but on himself, commending Glen Davis, in particular, for his contributions off the pine.
"Guys are making shots, shots finish [the assist]," Rondo said. "Baby is playing terrific. It seems like every time I throw it to him, he's knocking down the shot. It's all about the teammates. They've got to make shots. If they don't make shots, then we don't have team assists."
Even when he finally talked about himself, he focused on his missed opportunities.
"I missed a couple of times," he admitted. "I know I missed Ray [Allen] early in the game. Me and Kevin weren't on the same page with the first couple turnovers that I had. I just stuck with it and kept going. They did a great job at getting me the ball in transition and I just tried to take advantage of it and attack the rim. When I didn't have anything, I just tried to find my guys."
And while Rivers admitted it's up to teammates to drive that assist total high by making shots, he said Rondo's sluggish start only made his final total all the more amazing.
"Guys have to make shots, that is the truth," Rivers said. "I don't know what the number is, but I had a playoff record for a half. I think it was 17 or 18 assists. I think I ended up with one more. They were the same shots, but nobody made them. It just happens. It's the perfect storm when those things happen.
"I think this is an extraordinary game for one reason: He started out turning the ball over, and usually when you start off turning the ball over, you get conservative. You rarely start the way he did and still end up with the game he had. That's a great sign for us and his mental toughness. A year ago or even two years ago, there's no way that happens. He holds onto it or calls safe plays."
"We expect Rondo night in and night out to get guys involved, and he pretty much got everybody involved," Pierce said. "He got the popcorn man involved, he got the announcer involved, he got everybody involved tonight and it was beautiful to watch."
Added Garnett: "He was amazing. We all know that he is an influence on the game. And tonight, man -- stats are one thing, but the influence and how he controls the game is another. There are very few in the game that can do it. He's a special player, man. Even when he looks bad on nights, he makes it look simple at times."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
What started as a sloppy night for Rajon Rondo turned into one for the books.