The last time Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo played against the Miami Heat, the Celtics were still actually considered contenders to Miami's crown as Eastern Conference champions. That was opening night of the 2012-13 season. The current Celtics have no such grand ambitions this season even though Rondo is finally back.
Not All-Star Rondo Yet
Rondo returned Friday against the Lakers and is definitely still searching for his sea legs, so to speak. He played 19 minutes against L.A. in a 107-104 loss and had eight points and four assists. In Sunday's defeat in Orlando, which was on a 10-game losing streak, Rondo was up to 21 minutes but only 3-for-10 from the field for six points, six rebounds and four assists. He's likely to remain on that 20-minute-or-so limit for a while as he gets back into playing shape.
The Celtics (20-21-1 ATAS, 17-25 O/U at sportsbooks) need all the help they can get, having dropped 11 of 12 and nine straight road games. Rondo is a terrific defensive player but he's never been a great shooter so he alone won't solve Boston's offensive problems. Most people believe that Rondo will be traded by next season, with Phoenix and Houston often mentioned as possible landing spots. Celtics GM Danny Ainge has done a masterful job in accumulating draft picks in various deals. Boston has 17 potential draft picks over the next five seasons. Rondo has only next season left on his contract and isn't likely to stick around for the rebuild. Rondo's return made Jordan Crawford expendable and he was dealt last week to Golden State along with MarShon Brooks in which the Celtics got seldom-used center Joel Anthony from Miami and two draft picks.
Another of Ainge's recent trade acquisitions, guard Jerryd Bayless, is unlikely to play Tuesday after missing practice Monday with a toe injury. He's averaged 7.1 points in 19.4 minutes off the bench. That should mean an uptick in minutes for undrafted rookie Phil Pressey.
Mini-Slump For Champs
The Heat (18-23 ATS, 25-16 O/U on NBA odds) ended a six-game road trip with a 121-114 loss in Atlanta on Monday night -- we projected an Atlanta cover (+5) in that game on NBA picks. It was Miami's fourth loss in the past six games and ended Atlanta's nine-game skid in the series. The Heat played Monday without Dwyane Wade, who was given the night off to rest. The team is 5-5 without him this season compared to 11-2 in 2012-13.
Wade resting is almost guaranteed to happen any time Miami has back-to-back games so the Heat can do their best to make sure Wade is as healthy as possible when the playoffs roll around. Because he sat Monday and Tuesday's game is in Miami, chances are pretty good he will suit up against Boston. If not, Ray Allen would start again for him. Big man Chris Andersen returned to the lineup on Monday after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. The Miami bench was outscored 45-21 by Atlanta's.
One of the biggest upsets of the season came Nov. 9 in Miami when the Celtics were 13-point underdogs on NBA odds and beat the Heat 111-110. Wade has to shoulder a lot of blame for that. He was on the line for two free throws with 0.6 seconds left and Miami up but missed the first. Wade purposely missed the second but he didn't hit the rim, so Boston was able to call timeout and set up an inbounds play on Miami's half of the court. The Celtics won it when Jeff Green nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. He led the team with 24 points, while LeBron had 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Miami, which managed to lose despite shooting 57.7 percent from the field and having 22 more free-throw attempts than Boston. It's one of only five road wins on the season for the C's.
NBA free pick: If Wade plays, give the points (over regardless). If he doesn't, lean Boston, which has covered four straight in the series for sports bettors.[gameodds]5/253291/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]