By A.Sherrod Blakely
LOS ANGELES There are many sides to Rajon Rondo's game.
On Sunday, we saw two of them.
In the first half he was in stealth mode, impacting the game without anyone really noticing it.
In the second half, he opted for more of a starring role.
You put the two together, and you have what coach Doc Rivers believes was one of Rondo's best games of the season.
And the Celtics certainly needed it in handing the Los Angeles Lakers a 109-96 loss.
Rondo had 10 points and 16 assists for his team-best 18th double-double this season.
But of the 16 assists, all but one came in the second half.
Even though Rondo wasn't putting up Rondo-esque assist numbers in the first half, Rivers loved what he was seeing out of his point guard.
"I thought he called an absolutely perfect game," Rivers said. "He's our pitcher. He called a sensational game. Coming out of time outs, he made sure guys were in their spots. Rondo played with great speed. When he plays with speed, he has power."
Rondo said the low assists total in the first half had more to do with his teammates making plays, than anything else.
"Tonight, it wasn't for me to make plays in the first half," Rondo said. "Paul Pierce had it going. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen had it going. I tried to get those guys the ball in their spots, and those guys, they made it happen."
And that is the beauty of this Celtics team.
There's no disputing Rondo is the C's best playmaker.
But he understands -- and his teammates accept -- there will be times when others besides Rondo will have to establish themselves as a primary play-maker.
We saw that at Portland on Thursday when Garnett was one rebound and one assist shy of his first triple-double this season, and 21st (if you include the three he has tallied in the playoffs) of his career.
However, the way things were going on Sunday indicated that the Celtics would need Rondo to impact the game in the second half the way fans have grown accustomed to this season.
In the third quarter, Pierce erupted for 14 of his team-high 32 points. Lost in Pierce's scoring binge was some pretty solid passing by Rondo, who tallied six assists in the third.
The biggest difference in the third, Rivers said, was that the Celtics did a better job of defending and getting rebounds, and then quickly getting the ball into Rondo's hands.
"We just kept saying it in every time out," Rivers recalled, "'Find Rondo. Stop coming back to the ball. Run out and he'll find you.'"
Rondo said the biggest change in the second half was the game's pace become more to the Celtics' liking.
"We got stops," Rondo said. "Everything in the first half was a made shot or they were on the free-throw line. It's hard to run, and create the tempo if you're taking the ball out of bounds every time on made baskets or free throws."
With Boston's defense clicking once again, Rondo continued to dominate play in the fourth by scoring four points to go with nine assists.
Just to put it in perspective, Rondo's nine assists in the fourth quarter was just one short of the Lakers' team total of 10 for the entire game.
"The assists, they just came in the second half," Rondo said. "I was pretty much doing the same thing. It's just the tempo changed in the second half."
And that brought about a change in Rondo's game, from stealth to starring role.