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Celtics Cruise Past Charlotte

Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, and Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, left, chase a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, and Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, left, chase a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston — It wasn’t too long ago that Rajon Rondo was one of the NBA’s up-and-coming ball-handlers, trying to show he belonged with veterans like Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.

Now the Celtics point guard is trying to prove to the youngsters that he can still play.

“I’m getting a little bit older and the younger guys are coming in, and I may have a mark on my back being an older guy, having made a couple of All-Star (games),” Rondo said after recording his third triple-double of the season last night in a 100-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. “I have a target on my back every night so I just want to go out and do what I do best: run the show and make some shots.”

Rondo scored 17 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds — his 26th career triple-double, including playoffs. Motivated by facing 22-year-old Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker, Rondo had a hand in the Celtics’ first 19 points as they opened a double-digit lead early in the first quarter and coasted to their sixth consecutive victory.

“It’s not fun losing. Since we’ve been winning the locker room is a little bit more relaxed, guys aren’t as tense,” he said. “We lost a couple of games and we never got down. When we play, we play loose. We have smiles on the court. ... It’s nice to see that swagger on the court again since we’ve been winning.”

Paul Pierce scored 19 and Avery Bradley added 16 for Boston. Kevin Garnett, who needed 13 points to tie Patrick Ewing for 16th on the NBA’s career scoring list, was 2 for 11 from the field and scored just seven points to go with his 10 rebounds.

Hakim Warrick and Ramon Sessions had 16 points apiece and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 with eight rebounds for the Bobcats, who lost their third straight and their 23rd in the last 25 games since opening the season 7-5.

The Celtics scored 13 of the game’s first 15 points and never trailed. Rondo had five assists and seven points in the opening 6:17.

Boston led by as many as 18 in the second quarter before the Bobcats went on a 9-1 run, getting seven points from Kidd-Gilchrist. Charlotte scored 13 of the first 15 points in the second half to tie it on Warrick’s steal that set up a dunk by Kidd-Gilchrist.

Wizards 120, Magic 91

Washington — Emeka Okafor had 19 points and 11 rebounds, leading six players in double figures for Washington in a victory over Orlando for the Wizards’ third straight win.

The Wizards were just 4-28 before their streak, but beat Oklahoma City, Atlanta and now Orlando — all at home — to nearly double their wins total.

John Wall had 12 points and six assists in 20 minutes in his second game of the season after missing the Wizards’ first 33 with a left knee injury.

Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 12 assists to lead Orlando, and Nikola Vucevic added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Arron Afflalo, who had 30 points against the Clippers, missed 10 of 11 from the field and finished with two points.

Bulls 97, Hawks 58

Chicago — Carlos Boozer scored 20 points, Luol Deng added 18 and Chicago held Atlanta to a franchise-low 20 points in the first half.

Reserve forward Mike Scott scored nine points to lead Atlanta as none of the starters reached double figures. Josh Smith and Kyle Korver had nine points each.

Clippers 99, Grizzlies 73

Memphis, Tenn. — Reserves Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes each scored 16 points, and Los Angeles easily routed Memphis with Chris Paul missing his first game this season because of a bruised right kneecap.

The matchup between two of the best teams in the West wasn’t close much of the way. While Paul watched from the bench, the Grizzlies were without their leading scorer as Rudy Gay was excused for his grandmother’s funeral in Baltimore.

Mavericks 113
Timberwolves 98

Dallas — Darren Collison led six players in double figures with 23 points and Dallas matched its season high with a third straight win in a victory against Minnesota.

The Mavericks overcame an early spark from former Dallas guard J.J. Barea, who became a starter midway through the 2011 NBA finals against Miami and helped the franchise rally to its first title.

Barea, who was injured in two previous trips to Dallas, led the Timberwolves with 21 points. He kept Minnesota close in the first half and had a hand in a fourth-quarter rally that cut a 23-point deficit to eight.

The Timberwolves finished a 0-4 road trip that coach Rick Adelman missed for personal reasons.

O.J. Mayo and Elton Brand had 20 points each for Dallas. It was a season high for Brand. Mayo also had nine assists.