|05.09.10 at 4:11 pm ET|
By the time the Cavaliers had jumped out to a 7-0 lead, the Celtics had shot 0-for-3, been whistled for two fouls, and committed a turnover. It was only 2:13 into the game.
Then the shots began to fall for the Celtics. Ray Allen hit a jumper, Rajon Rondo drove the lane, and Kevin Garnett made it to the free throw line. The Celtics went on an 8-0 run before taking the lead, 13-12, with 6:22 to go. From that point on, they outscored the Cavs, 18-10, to end the first quarter leading by nine.
Rondo leads all players with 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists. LeBron James leads the Cavs with eight points. The Celtics outscored the Cavs 14-8 in the paint. They also outrebounded the Cavs, 13-6, and outscored them 7-0 on second chance points.
|05.09.10 at 3:33 pm ET|
‘I don’t understand why they boo,’ he said prior to Game 4. ‘Are they booing at us? I don’t understand what they’re booing at. But sometimes when you’re booing at us, it’s tough. It doesn’t matter. We’re a family. We’re all a family. All 20,000 of us. And your family is going to get on your nerves and be hard on each other, but don’t boo. Don’t boo us. That’s tough.’
The boos resonated so loudly during the Celtics 124-95 loss on Friday that Davis felt as if he was actually playing in Cleveland, not in front of a home crowd.
‘Last game things didn’t go our way and you might as well have said we were away. We were at home, it felt like we weren’t getting the calls and the next thing you know, we’re getting boos. It felt like we were away,’ he said, adding, ‘When you get booed at your own place it’s tough. But the fans have high expectations, but at the same time I don’t think Cleveland fans booed them when we were beating them by a lot.’
Davis isn’t upset with the fans. He understands the Celtics have set a high standard for success. He wants to deliver on it, too, as a thank you to the Celtics faithful.
‘When you walk out the arena and your own fans are telling you you’re old and you’re going to lose, and I’m walking out and I hear that kind of stuff, it gets you disappointed a little bit,’ Davis said. ‘Just to know that hey we may not have played as well, we make mistakes just like you guys do. Don’t count us out or feel like we suck just because we got beat. We did the same thing to [the Cavaliers] at their place.
“So it’s just tough when you hear boos at your own spot knowing that we come out here and we play not only for ourselves, but for the fans too because without the fans this wouldn’t be a game.’
|05.09.10 at 3:04 pm ET|
In Game 3 the Cavaliers made a simple, but effective adjustment on Rajon Rondo by having Anthony Parker pick him up full court. The move slowed down the Celtics offense just enough to force them into a number of forced perimeter jump shots. Rondo made only three of his first nine shots in the first quarter and six of those were from outside the paint.
The Cavs jumped out to a 36-17 lead and never looked back.
“Rondo’s playing major minutes,” Parker said. “He’s the guy that makes them go. We felt like if we could just make him work. He’s so quick and so talented that he can get where he has to go. So if you just make him work a little bit more. The mentality of our team is one that puts us in an aggressive mindset and that’s the kind of mindset we had for four quarters in the last game.”
The Cavs haven’t come up with anything special for Paul Pierce. They seem content to see if Kevin Garnett can beat them in the post. All of their defensive attention and focus has been on Rondo, and for good reason.
“He does so much,” Parker said. “He’s the steals leader. He’s a great rebounder for a guard. He runs the team and he’s extremely capable of finishing in the paint with all kinds of awkward shots. He’s continued to improve since he’s come into the league.”
What made the move so intriguing is that it came from Parker and a handful of other players and assistants. Cavs coach Mike Brown trusts the people around him to offer insights and suggestions. While the final decision rests with him, he is confident and secure enough to listen. That’s unusual in the NBA, especially for a coach who probably has more pressure on him than any of his peers in the playoffs.
“That’s the thing that I give him so much credit for,” Parker said. “In this environment, coaching is so competitive and the tendency is to have your hands on everything. I give him so much credit because he delegates so much authority, but honestly the final decision still rests with him.”
And so does the criticism.
“He still does it and I think he does it effectively,” Parker said. “He makes everybody feel like they’re a part of this. The success of it is I think you can get your players to buy into the system and buy into what you’re doing it will be more effective.”
Brown has good reason to trust Parker who has banged around Europe and the NBA and brings experience and smarts to his role.
“AP’s extremely intelligent,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coaching, whether it’s at this level or the collegiate level, wherever he wants to. He’s a great character guy, he has patience and he’s been there, done that in a lot of different situations. His IQ for the game of basketball is pretty high.”
The Celtics have downplayed the adjustment and Rondo did do a good job of dealing with the defense and remaining a threat. He finished with 18 points and eight assists and it’s a measure of how far he’s come that his stat line was considered a sub-par game.
Parker has something to do with it as well. He has played solid defense in this series and remained a threat shooting corner 3-pointers.
“He brings length to the team and great shooting,” Brown said. “He’s not necessarily a physical defensive presence like a Bruce Bowen, but he has a defensive presence because he’ll bust his behind on every play. It’s a better team with him out on the floor.”
The game within the game in this series for the Celtics offensively starts with Rondo. He had controlled the pace and play in the first two games. The Cavs found a way to slow him in Game 3 and now it’s on him to provide the counter.
|05.08.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Between Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett alone, it has never been easy to pinpoint the best player on the Celtics. Throw the development of Rajon Rondo into the mix this season, and the task is even tougher.
It’s easy, though, for Kendrick Perkins. Not only does he consider Rondo to be the C’s top player, he also considers him their lifeline.
‘I think right now, he’s the best player on our team,’ Perkins told WEEI.com following practice on Saturday. ‘Without Rondo, nothing goes. Pretty much we’ve got to play him the whole game because he just runs the whole team. Without him, we’d be dead.’
Rondo is playing a team-high 41 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. His numbers have consistently improved from the regular season throughout the playoffs. In the first three games against the Cavs, he leads with team with 19.3 points and 13.0 assists, more than five points and three assists better than the regular season. He is also shooting 56.8 percent from the field and averaging 5.0 rebounds, more boards than Allen and Pierce.
‘I think he stepped up,’ said Perkins. ‘He’s been more focused than ever, in my opinion, and he’s been doing a great job of leading us.’
|05.08.10 at 4:31 pm ET|
‘Listen, if we’re going to talk about our offense when we just gave up 120 points, then we’ve got problems,’ he said after practice on Saturday. ‘That was not an offensive problem last night. That was a defensive problem. We score off our defense, off of getting stops, and if you’re going to take the ball out every time, you’re not scoring in the playoffs. You’ve got to get stops and multiple stops to score.’
The Celtics gave up 124 points to the Cavaliers on Friday, nearly 30 more points than their opponents’ regular season average. (In contrast, the C’s held the Heat to just 87.6 points per game in the first round victory.) The Cavaliers also shot a staggering 59.5 percent from the field in Game 3.
‘We’ve got to get stops,’ said Rivers. ‘We’ve got to make them miss. We’ve just got to make them miss shots. We know how to do that. I don’t think we had a lot of pressure on them. I thought they had us on our heels the entire game, and so we’ve got to get back up into them.’
|05.08.10 at 3:55 pm ET|
Pierce is shooting just 31 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. He is averaging 12.7 points, down from 18.3 in the regular season and 19.6 in the first round against the Heat.
After scoring 11 points (4-15 FG) in the Celtics Game 2 loss, Pierce said the Celtics’ success is not dependent on his offensive production. He believes his scoring will come, and his teammates feel the same way.
‘I’m not worried about P,’ Kendrick Perkins said after practice on Saturday. ‘I’ve been around with P a long time. I’ve seen P have a few bad nights and come back and have a 35-point night. So you just never know with P. I know he’s capable of having big games and he always steps up in big games.’
Pierce’s role during this series is more complicated than offensive contributions. He is tasked with guarding LeBron James, who after scoring 24 points in Game 2, scored 21 points in the first quarter of Game 3 alone. James finished the night with 38.
‘We do want to get him the ball more. He has to get his rhythm better, but he has a big job. Guarding LeBron is very difficult and it takes a lot out of him,’ said Doc Rivers, adding, ‘LeBron gets the ball 101 times a game. He handles the ball, he pushes the ball up the floor, he posts, so it will absolutely take something out of him. There’s no doubt about that.’
The Celtics understand the magnitude of Pierce’s role on defense. Kevin Garnett said he wants to see Pierce being aggressive on both ends of the floor. Perkins isn’t worried about whether or not that will happen.
‘We all go through times where we struggle a little bit,’ he said. ‘His intentions are good and he wants to win, but it’s just hard for him to have a big night on the offensive end when he’s guarding the most valuable player in the league. So we’ve just got to a great job of getting ball open, make sure we get him good shots, and just help him on defense. But he’s not a concern.’
|05.07.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
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