BOSTON – Rajon Rondo waited more than a year to celebrate playing in a victory.
Rondo made 9 of 11 shots and finished with season highs of 19 points and 10 assists while helping Boston end a four-game losing streak with a 96-89 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
“We didn’t stop pushing the pace even though we had the lead,” Rondo said. “We finally finished a game strong. They made a run at it, but at the end of the day we still got some stops when we needed and made the plays.”
Boston entered Sunday winless in six games since Rondo’s return last month after missing nearly a year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He sat out the second of back-to-back games earlier in the week and was fresh enough at the end Sunday to help the Celtics hold off a late push by the Magic.
“You just feel like you’re really under control the way he was playing late,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Boston had been 0-6 in games with Rondo in the lineup since his return.
Jared Sullinger scored seven of his 21 points in the fourth quarter for the Celtics, who let a 12-point lead slip to one in the final period before pulling away at the end.
“I think we execute a little crisper,” Stevens said. “The ball seems to have found the right guys a lot, especially today. I think that’s more of guys getting used to playing with one another.”
Brandon Bass had 19 points and nine rebounds and Avery Bradley scored 17 in his return after missing five games with a sprained ankle.
Jeff Green was the only Boston starter not to score in double figures as the Celtics won for the third time in four games against the Magic, who have lost four of five overall and 11 straight on the road.
The Magic played without guard Jameer Nelson, who did not travel because of a sore left knee.
Arron Afflalo had 18 points and Nikola Vucevic finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic. Glen Davis had 15 points, Tobias Harris scored 13 and Victor Oladipo had 12 points as all five Orlando starters scored in double figures.
But the Magic couldn’t stop Rondo, who had six assists in the fourth quarter.
“We stuck to our principles and what we wanted to do. He just came through for his team,” Davis said.
The only game on the NBA schedule Sunday featured two of the league’s bottom teams.
The Celtics scored 27 in each of the first two periods and led 54-45 at halftime.
Orlando, which has just three road wins this season, rallied after making a push in the fourth quarter. The Magic went without a field goal in the fourth quarter until Maurice Harkless’ layup cut Boston’s lead to 75-68 with 9:01 left to play. E’Twaun Moore and Davis added layups during an 10-2 run that pulled the Magic within 77-76 on a pair of free throws by Kyle O’Quinn with 6:11 left to play.
It was as close as Orlando would get. Rondo answered with hook shot for the Celtics and Bradley followed with a field goal and two foul shots as Boston started to pull away. The Celtics sealed it with an 8-2 run in the final two minutes.
“We just wanted to come in and try to change the tempo of the game and just play fast,” Harkless said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t close the game out.”