BOSTON — The Utah Jazz might have been caught off-guard when Rajon Rondo took the ball coast-to-coast with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Boston Celtics weren’t: They’ve timed him.
Rondo took the inbounds pass after a Jazz free throw, letting it bounce a few times so the clock wouldn’t start, and raced to the basket for the buzzer-beating layup to help the Celtics pull away and beat Utah 105-86 on Wednesday night.
“It was just our ‘Get out of the way’ play,” said Rondo, who had 14 points and 11 assists. “Rasheed (Wallace) came up and set a great pick and left me one-on-one with a big.”
Rondo, who claims to run a 3.9 second 40-yard dash, has always counted speed among his assets at point guard. By being able to dribble 94 feet in 3.1 seconds – and yes, they’ve timed him in practice – means Boston sometimes doesn’t have to fire up a desperation shot at the end of a quarter.
So even though coach Doc Rivers put 3-point shooters Ray Allen and Eddie House on the floor, but the first option was for Rondo to head straight for the basket.
“Rondo’s job is to push it up,” Rivers said. “It has to be a straight line, though. That’s either a coast-to-coast play or a pullup (jumper) for him.”
Rondo’s basket gave Boston a 22-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and the Jazz never got closer than 17 points from there. Kevin Garnett scored 18 points, Allen had 15 and Paul Pierce 13, including two 3-pointers at the start of the third that helped put the game out of reach.
Boston has won two in a row since its only loss, to Phoenix on Friday, to match its 8-1 start from its title-winning season two years ago.
One game after winning at Madison Square Garden for the first time in more than five years, the Jazz never led.
“Right now, we’re soft,” said Deron Williams, a game-time decision because of a bruised left calf and a bad back, who scored 13 points with seven rebounds and four assists. “There’s no way around it. We have to toughen up.”
Ronnie Brewer added 13 points, and Paul Millsap had nine points and 13 rebounds.
It was 23-23 before Boston scored the last five points of the first quarter and the first basket of the second.
“It wasn’t a lot fun to watch,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “I wouldn’t mind if they rebounded. There aren’t any rules against rebounding. … We settled for jump shots and didn’t make them to have to run too far to get layups.”
The Celtics led by 10 at halftime, when Kendrick Perkins already had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Utah never made a move after Pierce hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening 1:24 of the third quarter.
Boston made it 84-62 after three quarters on Rondo’s buzzer-beater when he streaked the length of the court with 3.8 seconds left for the layup. With more than five minutes left in the game, the Celtics began playing the “Gino” video they usually break out when the game is in reach.