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 Rondo, Allen lead Celtics past Suns 128-108

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PostSubject: Rondo, Allen lead Celtics past Suns 128-108   Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:24 pm

PHOENIX(AP) Rajon Rondo was off and running, and Kevin Garnett was hardly missed.Rondo
scored a career-high 32 points to go with 10 assists on his 23rd
birthday in Boston's 128-108 victory over the Suns on Sunday."As
Rondo goes, this team goes,'' Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce said. "If he
plays as well as he's playing, then there's no way we can lose.''Each
team was without an All-Star starter because of injury. The Celtics did
just fine without Garnett. Phoenix sorely missed Amare Stoudemire."We've got a lot of work to do,'' Suns point guard Steve Nash said.Ray
Allen scored 31 and Pierce 26 in Boston's first game since Garnett went
down with a strained muscle in his right knee that is expected to
sidelined him for at least two weeks."Guys step up and play their roles even better when Kevin is out,'' Rondo said.Phoenix
will have a much tougher time compensating for the loss of leading
scorer and rebounder Stoudemire following eye surgery on Friday. He
won't be able to resume physical activity for about eight weeks.The
Celtics blistered Phoenix with 63 percent shooting. Rondo made 13-of-18
and Allen 10-of-15. After going 1-for-8 in the first half, Pierce was
7-for-9 in the second. He was 10-for-10 at the foul line.The catalyst was Rondo. The Suns had no one who could defend him."Going
into the game we thought that Rondo's speed was a huge advantage for
us,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I told him to be just
ultra-aggressive, just attack, attack, attack.''Jason Richardson
scored 21 for the Suns in their first loss in four games under new
coach Alvin Gentry. Steve Nash added 19 points and 11 assists. Leandro
Barbosa scored 18 and Shaquille O'Neal 17 for Phoenix.It was an
end to a tumultuous week for the Suns that began with the firing of
coach Terry Porter. His replacement Gentry returned the team to its old
ultra-fast style, and the Suns went on to win three straight under the
new coach.But those were against the Los Angeles Clippers and
Oklahoma City Thunder. The defending NBA champions from Boston, Garnett
or no Garnett, were another matter, especially with Rondo at his best."First
of all, that is a really good basketball team with or without Kevin
Garnett,'' Gentry said. "You can see they don't have a whole lot of
weaknesses.''The Celtics improved to 10-0 when Rondo scored at least 18 points, and he had that before halftime."Just
lately he's really stepped up to the challenge,'' Pierce said. "He's
playing against elite point guards over the past couple of weeks -
Chris Paul, Deron Williams and tonight (Nash).''Rondo scored 22
to help Boston build a 68-54 lead at the break. The Celtics led by as
many as 21 in the third quarter. Phoenix cut it to nine twice, then
faded at the finish.Boston is 3-1 on a western road trip that still has stops at Denver and against the Clippers.The Celtics went up 80-59 on Brian Scalabrini's layup with 8:42 left in the third quarterPhoenix,
though, scored the next eight and O'Neal's dunk cut it to 80-67 with
6:50 to play in the quarter. The Suns sliced it to 12 four times before
Matt Barnes' 3-pointer made it 92-83 with 1:50 left. Rondo and Allen
scored the final four points of the period, though, and Boston led
96-83 entering the fourth.The Suns cut it to single digits once
more when Richardson's 3-pointer made it 96-87 with 11:02 to play.
Allen followed with a 3-pointer to ignite a 15-3 spurt that made it
111-90 on Eddie House's 3-pointer with 7 1/2 to play.Notes:
Allen made his firs five free throws to run his streak to 72, breaking
Larry Bird's franchise record of 71. Allen missed his next attempt. ...
There were 26 free throws in the first quarter, 43 in the first half.
... Gentry, Nash and O'Neal each drew technical fouls in the first
half. ... Rondo's previous career best was 26 against the New York
Knicks last Dec. 21. ... The Celtics haven't had a home game in two
weeks, and won't play one until next Friday (against Indiana). ...
Phoenix has not won more than three in a row all season. ... Boston
improved to 7-4 on the road against the West.

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