Rajon Rondo cleared for full contact, expected to return for Celtics in January

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The Celtics have been exceeding expectations this season under new head coach Brad Stevens, and are currently in line for the four seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture despite the team’s losing record.

Things would appear to be only getting better with the addition of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo to the lineup, considering that on paper he’s the face of the franchise and the one player that should be firmly in place for the team to build around for the foreseeable future.

Rondo is back practicing with his teammates, and should make his return to the court beginning next month.

From Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston:

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo received clearance to resume full-contact practice activities on Friday and coach Brad Stevens said he believes Rondo should return to game action next month.

Rondo traveled Friday with team physician Dr. Brian McKeon to meet with operating surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who examined Rondo’s progress and cleared him to return to practice activities. The Celtics threw Rondo into the fire on Saturday, engaging in a spirited 45-minute session despite coming off game action on Friday night.

“[Rondo] had a good trip [Friday], as far as getting good news, and it looks like he’s on schedule to be closer, but still probably doesn’t look like we’re going to see him on the court any time this month,” said Stevens. “Hopefully as we get into January, he’ll be closer.”

Boston most recently has used a three-guard lineup featuring Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford, but none of those players have the grasp of the offense or the court vision that Rondo possesses, and his presence will only improve the Celtics’ chances of holding onto their position in the standings.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)

LeBron James blows wide-open dunk (video)

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J.R. Smith (slightly out of context): “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break.”

Report: Raptors’ Delon Wright out a month

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Raptors guard Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder, but at least he won’t need surgery.

Raptors media relations:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Raptors (11-5), off to a surprisingly strong start, are second in the Eastern Conference. They’ve bought themselves margin for error. All in all, a month-long absence for Wright isn’t so bad.

Wright had been a key part of an excellent all-bench unit that included Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Jakob Poeltl. Two-way player Lorenzo Brown has assumed Wright’s role, and Norman Powell – returning from his own injury – will provide a boost. Toronto can also stagger Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan more.

The chemistry of the bench mob was something to behold, but the Raptors should withstand this.