Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo shouts instructions from the bench against the Brooklyn Nets in the second half of their NBA basketball game in New York

Celtics chase Rondo’s assists streak in blowout loss to Pistons

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Rajon Rondo had a streak of 33 consecutive games with 10 or more assists coming into Sunday’s game against the Pistons. He left with that streak intact, although making it happen came under some questionable circumstances.

The Celtics were in the middle of getting blown out by a Detroit team that had won just once in its first 10 games this season, down 18 midway through the fourth quarter, when Rondo was left in the game and the team did all it could to make sure the streak continued.

From Greg Payne of ESPNBoston.com:

When it was clear victory was not an option, the Celtics focused on getting Rondo to 10 assists to continue his pursuit of John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Rondo entered the final frame with just six helpers, and it took him nearly the whole fourth quarter to reach double-figures. After Boston came up empty on a handful of its final possessions, Sullinger finally knocked down a straightaway jumper with under a minute left to secure Rondo’s record. He’s now recorded double figures in assists in 34 straight games and is steadily closing in on Stockton’s record of 37 consecutive games, and is slowly gaining on Johnson’s all-time record of 46.

Rondo’s last four assists came with under six minutes to play in the game, with his team trailing by 18, 19, or 21 points as each of those last assists were recorded. The final one came with just 51 seconds remaining, when the result was no longer in doubt.

Are we OK with this?

Players have been criticized heavily for valuing individual accomplishments over the team’s success in the past, especially when doing silly things to try to get a final rebound or assist to record a triple-double. This doesn’t feel any different, and in fact might be worse considering it couldn’t have happened without the coach’s cooperation.

No one’s going to remember this if Rondo does set the record for consecutive assists, but it’s a little odd to see a team coached by Doc Rivers pull a stunt like this at the end of a disappointing and lopsided loss.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.