Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo missed his seventh consecutive game Friday, but that didn't stop him from icing his ailing left ankle in the locker room following his team's loss to the Hornets.
Rondo deemed himself "day-to-day" as he recovers from a sprain suffered in a win over the New York Knicks on Dec. 15, and said he might be able to play Sunday in Toronto, before cautioning that his return might have to wait until Monday against Minnesota ... or as far as out as next Saturday's tilt in Chicago.
Needless to say, there's no definitive timetable.
Rondo did warm-up before Friday's game and tested himself by playing 1-on-1, after which he and the Celtics' training staff determined Rondo simply wasn't game-ready yet. He hasn't lost his sense of humor, however. When asked what limitations he was experiencing, he quipped, "Just dunking."
Added a more serious Rondo: "No setback, I tried to play 1-on-1 today, but I wasn’t able to do what I normally do."
And until he's able to be normal (or close-to-normal Rondo, at least), the Celtics don't plan on rushing him back on the court, even as their offense looks woefully out of sync without him at times. One game after committing a season-high 21 turnovers in a loss in Detroit, Boston turned the ball over 19 times against the Hornets in a game that Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted had a "snail's pace."
Rondo admitted it's tough watching from the sideline, but noted there's nothing that says his addition would have been enough to tilt the scale in Boston's favor.
"It is what it is," said Rondo. "They won some games without me, too. That's the NBA. Nothing says that, if I played, we'd win or lose some games, too. The hardest thing is, the Detroit game and this game, we should have won. With me, without me; With KG, without him, we should have won these two games."
--RIVERS BREAKS DOWN HOW FINAL PLAY BROKE DOWN--
The Celtics boasted a chance to force overtime or win the game after getting the ball back with 19 seconds to play in a two-point contest. But a pick-and-roll play with Pierce broke down, preventing Boston from generating a quality shot in the waning moments.
"It was a pick and roll with Paul and Ray [Allen] and we got the switch we wanted," said Rivers. "But I guess they must have reached in and got the deflection. We got the switch we wanted, [Marco] Belinelli did the switch on Paul, smaller guy with a bigger guy, tried to force [Trevor] Ariza to maybe help and then you’ve got Ray standing behind the three. I didn’t see what happened; I haven’t seen the clip. My guess is someone reached in and popped the ball loose. So that’s what we were trying to get. We got what we wanted, it just didn’t work out.”
Pierce lost control of the ball dribbling towards the right wing (the same spot he drilled a winning jumper over the Knicks earlier this month) and Allen settled for an off-balanced, well-contested 21-foot jumper from the left wing that was off the mark.
Chris Paul collected the rebound and ran out the clock allowing New Orleans to escape with the win (the Celtics failing to foul, despite nearly five seconds remaining on the clock in a two-point game).
--LOOSE BALLS: HARANGODY'S ENERGY; JERMAINE'S MINUTES--
* Celtics rookie forward Luke Harangody, who had logged only 48 minutes in 12 prior appearances this season, played a career-high 12:49 Friday and his energy provided a big spark for Boston. Harangody finished a team-best plus-18 in the plus/minus, showing just how effective the Celtics' scrappy second unit was against New Orleans. His play even left Rivers leaning on the undersized forward instead of going to rookie center Semih Erden (who is still battling the affects of a stomach bug that forced him to sit out a recent three-game road trip).
"You know, Luke Harangody was guarding Emeka Okafor," said Rivers. "I mean, what a hell of a matchup that is. And Luke was phenomenal. He just played so darn hard."
* Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal logged a season-high 33 minutes, chipping in eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with six rebounds and three blocked shots. O'Neal admitted he wasn't expecting that much court time -- and Rivers certainly didn't plan on leaning on him that long -- but able to handle the load, O'Neal gladly produced his longest stint in green, providing the sort of defense that keyed Boston's early fourth-quarter run.
"You just have to be willing to do whatever coach asks," said O'Neal, who has put three strong efforts together since returning to the Celtics' lineup on Christmas Day following a 19-game absence due to lingering left knee soreness.