Celtics
Pistons
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Nov 1, 2010 - 9:05 PM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Boston (2-1) at Detroit (0-3), 7:30 p.m. EDT

As good as he was distributing the ball last season, Rajon Rondo has been even better this fall.

The fifth-year point guard hopes to continue that trend as the visiting Boston Celtics try to keep the Detroit Pistons winless Tuesday night.

Rondo was fourth in the NBA with 9.8 assists per game in 2009-10, helping Boston reach the NBA finals, and he's leading the league by a wide margin in that category this season at 16.7.

He had a career-best 24 assists - four shy of Bob Cousy's franchise record from 1959 - along with 10 points and 10 rebounds to record his fifth career triple-double in a 105-101 win over New York on Friday.

"It means a lot, but I'll try and catch him," Rondo said of coming close to Cousy's record. "(It's) all about the teammates. If they don't make the shots, we don't get team assists."

Rondo's leadership on the floor helped Boston (2-1) top 90 points for the first time this season. Paul Pierce had 25 points and 14 rebounds while Kevin Garnett added 24 points and 10 boards.

"If you're not ready, he'll embarrass you. He'll hit you right in the head with the ball," said Garnett, who shot 12 of 17 after going a combined 7 for 19 in the previous two games. "He'll see something you didn't see, but he'll make you see it."

Boston will try to put up similar offensive numbers against Detroit (0-3), which has given up at least 101 points in every game this season.

However, the Celtics probably will be without Shaquille O'Neal, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes Friday but suffered a knee bruise. He missed his second straight practice Monday and is unlikely to play Tuesday. While averaging 20.7 minutes in three starts, O'Neal is averaging 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Jermaine O'Neal, who missed Friday's game with a sore left knee, returned to practice Monday and will make the trip. Coach Doc Rivers said he could see more playing time after conditioning issues limited him to 25 minutes the first two games.

Boston will try to extend the Pistons' worst start since opening 0-4 in 1999-2000. Detroit blew a 21-point, third-quarter lead against Chicago on Saturday in a 101-91 defeat.

Ben Gordon scored all 21 of his points in the first half and Detroit shot 4 of 21 in the fourth quarter while being outscored 34-9. It was an especially difficult defeat after losing 105-104 at home to Oklahoma City the previous night on a late layup.

"Playing like strangers and not executing crisply really hurt us," coach John Kuester said after his team committed 18 turnovers for a second straight game. "We're not taking care of the ball and remembering the things that we did in the first half."

Despite his poor second half Saturday, Gordon seems to be making early amends after averaging a career-low 13.8 points while battling injuries last season for Detroit - his first after being signed to a five-year, $55 million deal. Gordon has scored 53 points the last two games while shooting 61.5 percent.

Boston has won seven of the last nine meetings, including four of five in Detroit.