BOSTON (AP) — These are not the Boston Celtics that Rajon Rondo left behind almost a year ago, a roster of All-Stars just a couple of seasons removed from their second trip to the NBA Finals in three years.
His pinpoint passes went for naught. The defense that helped the franchise win it all in 2008 was missing. Needing a big play in the final seconds, the best option Rondo could come up with was himself.
Rondo returned from a knee injury and missed a 3-pointer that could have sent the game into overtime, sending the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-104 victory on Friday night.
"I thought he made a lot of plays down the stretch," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after seeing his All-Star point guard in a game for the first time. "Just came up a little bit short. But I was glad he had the ball."
Pau Gasol had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, and Kendall Marshall added 19 points and 14 assists, including a 3-pointer with 69 seconds left to give the Lakers their first lead of the second half. Ryan Kelly scored 20 points and Wesley Johnson added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"It was an incredible experience for me," said Kelly, who added a pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining as the Lakers snapped a six-game losing streak. "We were sliding there a little bit. We needed it and we made the plays that made the difference."
Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 25 points for Boston. Rondo, who was limited to 20 minutes in his first game since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 25, 2013, had eight points, four assists and two rebounds.
The Celtics missed their last seven shots while giving up 11 points in a row — including three straight 3-pointers.
"We missed some shots in the fourth quarter, but we've got to do it defensively," said Rondo, who was announced as the team captain before the game.
"I found out when you found out," he said. "It really didn't hit me at first. After I came back to the huddle, a couple of guys told me congrats on being named captain. It's definitely an honor."
The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter and still held a 97-94 advantage when Rondo, who played about five minutes each quarter, checked back in with 4:53 left. Olynyk soon made a jumper from the top of the key and then Rondo hit Avery Bradley for a 3-pointer on the wing to extend the lead to eight points.