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First Quarter Wrap: Celtics – Cavs

05.11.10 at 8:38 pm ET
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First Quarter Score: Cavaliers 23, Celtics 20

After his remarkable Game 4 performance, Rajon Rondo is scoreless through the first quarter. The point guard is 0-for-1 from the field with one rebound, two turnovers, and no assists in 11 minutes. But this was not because of a change in defense. The Cavaliers started Anthony Parker, not LeBron James, on Rondo.

James is also scoreless (0-2 FG) through 12 minutes, a testament to the defense of Paul Pierce.

Instead of Rondo and James leading the way, Pierce has six points, tied for a team-high with Kevin Garnett. Kendrick Perkins found himself in early foul trouble with two personals halfway through the quarter.

Passing of the torch? Doc passes

05.11.10 at 7:48 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — For the last few days all the talk around the Celtics has been on the passing of the torch from the Big Three to Rajon Rondo. Funny, but the Celtics don’t look at it that way.

“That’s for y’all, I’m just trying to get them to pass the ball to each other,” Doc Rivers said. “That torch stuff, I’m going to leave that alone. As long as they keep passing to each other, I’m good.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo,

Searching for consistency in an inconsistent series

05.11.10 at 7:44 pm ET
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CLEVELAND — Through four games of this series, neither the Celtics nor the Cavaliers have been able to establish anything that could be easily identified as momentum. There have been two blowouts, two close games and two road wins.

The prevailing thought hours before Game 5 was that no one knows what’s going to happen tonight.

“Rhythm-less,” is how Doc Rivers termed it. “No one’s won two games in a row. I suspect this game tonight, I think both teams are going to play really well and we’re going to have a better understanding.”

Ray Allen, for one, is not surprised that the series has gone the way it has.

“I believe in momentum during the regular season,” Allen said. “Even though we played a day-a-and-a-half ago, the turnaround is so quick. We know what they’re doing. They know what we’re doing. You have to create whatever momentum from one day to the next. You can’t just think that the last game gets you to win the next game. It gets you the loss, really.”

The Celtics have been searching for consistency since the dawn of the new year. Injuries took them out of their comfort zone, but even when the players started returning, getting back into a groove proved difficult.

“We knew who we were,” Rivers said. “We knew our identity. We started off the season with it and then we lost our way.”

It’s now become clear that their decisive first round win over Miami kickstarted the Celtics rejuvenation. Throughout that series, the Celtics won games with their defense, which fed their transition game.

“I hate to say that we bypassed what we did in the regular season,” Allen said. “But once the playoffs came everybody was ready to play. Regardless of who we played, we knew homecourt wasn’t going to sustain us. We have to win in somebody else’s building and here we are.We never talked about it. It was never anything that any of us ever worried about. In the first round we had to just play.”

And now? “I still think that it’s 2-2 and we’ve both won on each other’s court,” Allen said. “It’s a three-game series and now it starts to get really interesting.”

Read More: Ray Allen,

Why Spike Lee is rooting for the Celtics

05.11.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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Diehard New York fan Spike Lee is throwing his support to the Celtics ‘€” but not without his own motivations.

As Lee explained to ESPNNewYork.com, he has the Knicks’ best interest in mind when he roots for the C’€™s. He hopes that an Eastern Conference semifinals loss for the Cavaliers could sway James to leave Cleveland during free agency this summer.

“We need LeBron,” Lee said. “I feel we have a better chance to get LeBron James if Cleveland loses this series to the Celtics. The quicker Cleveland loses, the better our chances are of getting LeBron.”

In spite of his allegiance to the Knicks, Lee actually has a few ties to the Celtics. He directed Ray Allen in ‘€œHe Got Game’€ and recently spoke with Rajon Rondo at an event for ‘€œJust Wright,’€ a movie in which Rondo has a cameo.

While Lee told ESPN he does not think the Cavs have an answer for Rondo, he strongly re-emphasized the true reason behind his unexpected support for the C’€™s.

“I’m not putting on any green and I’m not going to kiss the Blarney Stone or do the shamrock thing,’€ he said. ‘€œI hate the Red Sox as much as I hate the Celtics and the ghost of Johnny Most and all those guys. This is the first and last time I root for Boston on anything, but for this one possible result it’s worth it.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Knicks, LeBron James

Jon Barry on D&C: Rondo in elite company

05.11.10 at 8:59 am ET
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Jon Barry, who serves as an NBA analyst on ESPN and ABC, joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Cavaliers series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Barry said Rajon Rondo’s performance on Sunday cements his status as the maquee player on the C’s, ahead of the Big Three. Said Barry: “He’s quickly becoming the system, like Steve Nash in Phoenix. There’s not a guy in the league who wouldn’t say he wants to play with Steve Nash. Rondo’s quickly becoming the guys who is mentioned in that same breath.”

Barry said the Cavaliers continue to lean too heavily on LeBron James. “Their reliance on him to be superhuman is just too much,” Barry said. “When he doesn’t go crazy, they don’t win. They’ve got enough talent that they should be better than this.”

Barry suggested the Cavaliers should try inserting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has taken a back seat to Shaquille O’Neal in the playoffs. And he expects to see the Cavs push the ball more aggressively and consistently, based on their success when they’ve done that in this series. “Cleveland in Game 3 did everything in transition. They pushed the tempo,” Barry said. “They did it in Game 3, then in Game 4, nothing. … I don’t understand how that happens.”

Read More: Celtics, Jon Barry, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo

Rondo has seen it all before

05.10.10 at 9:17 pm ET
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WALTHAM — As is his style, Rajon Rondo completely underplayed the possibility that LeBron James wants a piece of him for Game 5 in Cleveland on Tuesday. At least, on defense.

Even more, Rondo took the chance to show he can play history teacher, too.

‘€œIt’€™s happened before,” Rondo said in recalling the 2008 NBA Finals. “LeBron is going to be LeBron. He’€™s a great help-defender so he’€™s definitely going to be helping. He’€™s a good defender. They did that a couple of years ago when Kobe was checking me in the Finals. So, I’€™m used to bigger guys giving me the shot and challenging me late because of their wingspan. But [Anthony] Parker, is 6-7, 6-6, he’€™s not LeBron but he’€™s similar. He’€™s not a first-team All Defense but he’€™s a good defender.

‘€œIt really doesn’€™t matter about the matchups. Obviously, a big thing in the playoffs is the matchups, but for me, I don’€™t really care who’€™s guarding me. I’€™m still going to run our offense and our system. We run our sets on offense through Paul, Ray and Kevin.’€

But Rondo isn’t as worried about who guards him Tuesday as he is the final result. A win and Rondo and the Celtics could clinch on home court Thursday night.

‘€œEach game you say is the most important game of the series, which is true,” he said. “Game 5 is the biggest game for us right now. There can be a momentum swing. The series has been up and down. I think each game is won, loss, won, loss so hopefully we can change it up and get two wins in a row.

‘€œThe pressure is on them now and also on us. So there’€™s no one-way street now as far as to where the pressure is. I’€™m fairly confident we can go into Cleveland and get a win. We definitely have to be focused.’€

As for getting Paul Pierce started, Rondo said he’ll do what he can but he knows his captain won’t force things.

‘€œWe don’€™t want to sacrifice the entire offense or the team just to get Paul involved,” he said. “Paul is just an unselfish player so he’€™s not complaining about shots or that he’€™s only scoring 11 or 12 points. As long as we’€™re winning, he knows it’€™s a team sport. He’€™s very unselfish. It’€™s about sacrifices. Yesterday, I think Ray [Allen] got 21 shots up and myself. Maybe Paul gets 22 shots and maybe Ray and I only shoots four. It varies each game. If a guy has it going, you keep going to him.’€

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, LeBron James, NBA playoffs

Paul Pierce meet David Ortiz

05.10.10 at 4:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — So maybe Paul Pierce is just getting the David Ortiz treatment.

After scoring just nine points in 31 minutes on Sunday in the 97-87 Celtics win over Cleveland that evened the series, 2-2, everyone wants to know if Paul Pierce is physically fine.

And if he is, as he told reporters following Monday’s practice, why then is he having such trouble getting his offensive game going?

‘€œI’€™m not a rookie, you guys. I’€™m not a rookie,” Pierce said with a painful smile very similar to the one a certain Red Sox slugger sported after getting grilled about his woes just TWO games into the season.

“It is my 12th year. I’€™ve been in every situation, regardless. Whether it’€™s foul trouble, not playing, things not going so well for you, I know how to get through those times, mentally. It doesn’€™t affect me like it used to when I was a younger player where I had two or three fouls and not really playing the kind of basketball I want to. But the key is to keep focused and doing what you can to help the team win.’€

And about your physical condition Paul?

‘€œThere’€™s nothing wrong me,” Pierce said. “The key for me is being focused and giving my team what they need to win. So there’€™s nothing wrong with me.’€

‘€œNo, Paul’€™s fine, Paul’€™s fine,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers added. “Obviously, we want more out of him but we’€™re getting a lot out of him. I think unfortunately for Paul, he’€™s an offensive player and that’€™s what everyone sees in him and he has a defensive part in this series so they’€™re going to look at his offensive numbers so that’€™s the bad part of being Paul Pierce, really.’€

Specifically, it was the early foul trouble in Games 3 and 4 at the Garden that Pierce pointed to as the main culprit in robbing him of offensive rhythm.

“If you’re a scorer, you’re a scorer for life,” Rivers said. “It’s like you’re in a gang, a scoring gang. I think scorers still think, ‘OK,’ and then once they get into it they realize, ‘Wow, this is tough.’ We just keep telling him to be aggressive. The one thing I did tell him was I thought I did think we got the right matchups for him he wasn’t looking to score. When we do get those situations, we need him to morph back into Paul.”

‘€œWe don’€™t want to sacrifice the entire offense or the team just to get Paul involved,” added Rajon Rondo. “Paul is just an unselfish player so he’€™s not complaining about shots or that he’€™s only scoring 11 or 12 points. As long as we’€™re winning, he knows it’€™s a team sport. He’€™s very unselfish. It’€™s about sacrifices. Yesterday, I think Ray [Allen] got 21 shots up and myself. Maybe Paul gets 22 shots and maybe Ray and I only shoots four. It varies each game. If a guy has it going, you keep going to him.’€

Pierce said he will not let games of 13, 14, 11 and nine points take him out of his focus of doing what it takes to help the team win the series, namely defend and help on LeBron James.

‘€œAll that other stuff goes out the window, being frustrated,” Pierce said. “You really have to concentrate on the game when you’€™re not in the game so that when you go back in the game, you can finish it.

‘€œI’€™m digging myself a ditch as far as my fouls but I think they’€™re good fouls I’€™m getting, some bad ones but that’€™s the way the game goes. It’€™s nothing I’€™m really worried about. I know I can do a better job and control. No matter how I’€™m doing offensively, as long as we win, that’€™s all that matters to me.’€

And winning Game 5 in Cleveland Tuesday is Job No. 1.

‘€œWe definitely have a sense of urgency going into Game 5,” Pierce said. “We have to treat it like a Game 7, trying to gather some momentum, like we’€™ve been trying to do. We know it’€™s going to be a tough place to play back in Cleveland, trying to get two wins. It’€™s going to be very difficult. I think we’€™re going to put our hard hats on and clean up some of things we didn’€™t do right last night and in Game 3, and hopefully, try to steal another win.’€

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, David Ortiz, LeBron James
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