|05.01.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
The first half of Game 1 belonged to Rajon Rondo. The fiery point guard leads all players with 19 points and eight assists. He shot 6-for-8 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
After scoring seven points in the first quarter, LeBron James doubled his total in the second by shooting 3-for-5 from the floor.
Both teams have key players with foul trouble, although the Celtics have the bigger disadvantage. Glen Davis was called for four personals in the first half while Paul Pierce and Rasheed Wallace have three apiece. For the Cavs, Shaquille O’Neal was sidelined with three.
Tony Allen was assessed a technical foul from the bench for arguing and offensive foul called on Rondo.
|05.01.10 at 8:40 pm ET|
All eyes were on LeBron James — and his elbow — as the Celtics and Cavaliers series got underway. James led the Cavs with seven points, but five of them came at the line. He shot just 1-for-5 from the field.
It was Paul Pierce, not James, who dominated the game early. He scored eight of the Celtics first 10 points, shooting 4-for-5 from the floor. Then Rajon Rondo took over. He leads all players with nine points, including a 3-pointer to end the quarter. He also dished a game-high five assists.
The Celtics outshot the Cavs, 52.4% to 30.0%, and are outrebounding them, 16-12. The C’s, however, were called for three more fouls than the Cavs. Glen Davis has three personals.
Kendrick Perkins received stitches above his lip after suffering a cut early in the first quarter.
|05.01.10 at 7:47 pm ET|
“I spent the last three days concentrating and preparing for this series,” James said. “I expect a lot of physical play. I haven’t done much physically in practice, I’ve been very conscious, knowing that today is the most important day besides the last three days, physically. We took it very light the last few days. I’m ready for today.”
We won’t the full extent of his elbow injury until the two teams take the floor, but the Celtics are preparing as if he is 100 percent.
|05.01.10 at 7:40 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo is one of the best offensive rebounding point guards in the NBA. For a team that doesn’t get a lot of offensive boards to begin with, his ability to crash the glass and keep possessions alive is yet another piece of Rondo’s unique package.
But against the Cavs, Rondo may have to use his discretion. That’s because Mo Williams, Cleveland’s ace 3-point specialist is on the other side.
“Offensive rebounds are great as long as you get them, but when you don’t get them you’re probably going to give up a basket on the offensive end.,” Doc Rivers said prior to Game 1. “Against Cleveland, it’s even more important because if our points guards go to the glass and don’t get it, Mo Williams is probably going to get a 3. Most of his 3’s against us came in transition. Most of Mo’s 3’s against everyone else came through set offense. We’re pretty sure that we have to get back and find him.”
Williams shot 55 percent on 3’s against the Celtics this season (12-for-22) and the Celtics have made defending the arc a tip priority in this series. The other concern for Rivers is that when Rondo drives to the basket, that could leave him vulnerable in transition.
“Mo will leak out,” Rivers said. “That’s the other place that he got 3’s.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t want to completely take away this aspect of Rondo’s game. Just as he is allowed some leeway on the perimeter when he goes for steals, he is also allowed some latitude when he crashes the glass.
Cavs coach Mike Brown indicated that it’s difficult to prepare for Rondo because there’s no way to replicate what he does in practice.
“I think that guy is in Jamaica,” Rivers said. “His name is Usain Bolt. Just like we can’t recreate LeBron [James]. You can’t recreate any of those guys.”
Rivers has spoken in glowing terms about Rondo’s increased maturity this season. From running the team and calling plays, to knowing when to gamble for steals and you can add his rebounding to that list, as well. There’s a lot riding on Rondo’s shoulders in this series.
|05.01.10 at 12:30 am ET|
Allen enters the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals averaging nearly 20 points in the first round. His next opponent, however, is the same team that shut him down offensively in the past.
The Cavaliers held Allen to just 9.3 points per game in the second round of the 2008 playoffs. He only hit four 3-pointers in the seven-game series and shot less than 35 percent from the field. It was a dramatic drop in offensive production.
‘I was put on defense more, but the way they were guarding me in Cleveland, they jumped me every pick-and-roll,’ Allen explained. ‘The way we played, they weren’t letting me come off pin downs. I think in the regular season I was averaging 22 or 23 against them, so their mindset was, ‘We’re not going to let him get involved. We’re going to take everything away from him.’ They did a good job of that.’
Allen was the Celtics leading scorer against the Cavs this regular season, averaging 22.5 points (48.3% FG, 57.7% 3PG) in four games. He expects the Cavaliers to step up their defense in the playoffs and can anticipate how to counter their attack.
‘I just know during the playoffs, they contribute two guys to me, always, just when I’m coming off pin downs,’ Allen said. ‘I have to make the right play, (Rajon) Rondo has to be in the right position, our bigs have to be in the right position, and we have to capitalize off of that. The only way we can force them away from that kind of defense is if we penalize them for doing that.’
The Celtics often practice beating a double-team during shootaround, Allen explained. They run through various scenarios that leave different players open.
Allen also prepares himself for double team by watching game tape. This allows him to see where his teammates are on the court from a different point of view. In most instances, it is either Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, or Rondo’s defender who is helping on D, creating opportunities for them to get open.
‘I’ve just got to know where Kevin is, where Perk is, where Rondo’s going to be,’ he said. ‘Rondo’s man always help, Perk’s man always helps, Kevin’s always flashing if he’s not setting a screen. When I come off a pin down, it happens so fast. So right before I come off a screen, I almost have to look and see what exactly they’re doing, and then I know I can throw it back and go, or Perk is rolling and he’s got a layup, Kevin has a jumpshot. So it’s just like a split-second decision.’
|04.30.10 at 8:39 pm ET|
James, after all, has become just the 10th player in NBA history to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards and will be crowned King before Game 2 Monday night.
‘I think if you ask players, and ask players to be honest, just based on what he’s achieved individually and as a team, it should be unanimous,’ Pierce said.
But Pierce made a point to remind everyone on Friday before Game 1 that he still has confidence in his own ability to score from anywhere on the court.
“I think I’m comfortable doing anything,” Pierce said. “I don’t limit myself to just being a shooter, or just driving. I’m a natural born scorer. I think I can do it all over the court. If the shot is there, I’ll take it.”
Still, inquiring minds still wanted to know Friday just how Pierce – who figures to draw a good deal of the assignment of guarding James – plans to guard the newly-minted two-time NBA MVP.
‘We just have to be aware of him constantly. You can’t give him anything. You have to challenge his shot. He does everything so well. We all know that once he gets into a groove shooting, he can shoot the ball. We all know how he is attacking the basket.’
“Just going against the best, regardless if it’s LeBron,” Pierce said. “It’s just going against the best teams. I just look at it over the years, I get to play against the top teams, I always get to show my best on the big stage. Obviously, playing against the MVP brings out the best in the best players in the league.”
|04.30.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics have unveiled so many keys for their series with the Cavaliers that they will need a ring just to keep them all straight. In addition to defensive rebounding, defending the 3-point line, energy from the bench, and, of course, guarding LeBron James, you can add one more: Rajon Rondo.
The Lakers get a lot of credit for devising the free safety defense on Rondo, but it was the Cavaliers in the 2008 conference semifinals who first effectively neutralized Rondo in a playoff series by simply not guarding him. In that series, the Cavs held him to single-digits in scoring four times and without an assist in another.
“Rondo’s the key to the series,” Doc Rivers said after practice Friday. “His speed has to be a factor in this series. He has to be disruptive defensively with his speed and it’s all pressure. They’re going to help off of him. Really how well he handles them trapping off of them and really not guarding him will be the key for us winning. When he’s effective our whole team is effective.”
The Celtics expect James will guard Rondo at times, which would allow him to essentially cause havoc by roaming around the defensive end.
“It’s movement off the ball,” Rivers said. “When he has the ball it’s no issue. When he doesn’t have the ball he has to be a great cutter and he has to be a great decision-maker once we swing the ball back to him. He has to catch it on the run and get back on the attack.”
Rondo’s reaction to being told that he was the latest key to the series?
Yes, Doc said they were going to play off you and you have to take advantage of it.
Have there been things you’ve learned over the years about playing against those defenses?
It seems like if you’ve kept moving and kept the ball moving you can minimize that and still be productive.
“There you have it.”
Rondo knows, obviously, what’s in front of him and what he has to do. It should be pointed out that his reactions to the same questions he’s heard hundreds of times before were fairly playful. It’s also worth noting that he’s had good success against the Cavs this season, averaging almost 15 points and more than 10 assists in four games.
So, Rajon, are you excited about the challenge?
You don’t show it. You’re pretty pumped up for this?
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