|05.03.10 at 1:40 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — There has been a lot made of the hard foul that Shaquille O’Neal administered to Rajon Rondo late in Game 1 that sent Rondo careening to the floor. One overheated Cleveland media member asked Cavs coach Mike Brown if it was the hardest playoff foul he’s ever seen.
Obviously it wasn’t, but Brown raised some eyebrows when he said he asked the NBA for clarification over whether it actually was even a foul. Brown’s contention is that Rondo initiated the contact.
That’s standard operating procedure during playoff series when teams will send a handful of plays to the league to ask for clarification. The real reason is to send a subtle message about calls that were, or were not made, during the course of a game to set the tone for the next one.
The referees for Game 2 are Dan Crawford, Dick Bavetta and Eddie Malloy. They should expect to see a lot of contact. For the record, the Celtics had no problems with the foul that O’Neal gave to Rondo.
“He’s just got to keep going in there,” Doc Rivers said. “Shaq’s doing what should do. I didn’t think what Shaq did was dirty or anything else. It was just a hard playoff foul. I actually applaud it. We need more of that. Both ways.”
Cavs guard Mo Williams lauded O’Neal for his foul both after Game 1 and again Monday morning as the team went through their shootaround.
“It’s a great asset to have, knowing that he’s going to give hard fouls,” Williams said. “Teams know that. They know that once they go in there they’re going to get hit, so brace yourself.”
Rondo can expect to get a huge amount of attention from the Cavs defense tonight. He saw Williams, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon at times in Game 1. The Celtics expected as much and while Brown said he would probably start Game 2 the same way — with Williams on Rondo — he won’t hesitate to go back to Parker, who is being hailed around Ohio as a Rondo stopper. A notion the Celtics don’t agree with.
“Honestly, it didn’t really affect us much,” Rivers said. “I thought Rondo’s fourth foul affected Rondo far more than Parker guarding Rondo. I think Rondo likes that matchup in a lot of ways. But that’s what you do. That’s what teams do. That’s what I would do. It’s always better to put a longer guy on a quicker guy. We actually thought it would be LeBron more.”
One thing is certain. If the Celtics are going to come back to Boston with a split, they will have to be the aggressors. Both in taking the ball to the basket and in defending the rim.
“We do have to be more physical,” Kendrick Perkins said. “We have to take it to them tonight. We have to be the more physical team. Last game they were, so tonight we just got to go out there and do what we got to do to get the win.”
|05.03.10 at 1:20 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — In Game 1, every starter except for Kendrick Perkins played at least 38 minutes and Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo both logged over 42. Part of that was foul trouble. Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis both picked up three fouls early in the first half and part of that was the ongoing production problems with the second unit.
That has to change in Game 2.
“You don’t do a lot of rotation changes, but you do make some tweaks as far as what you run on the offense end and defensively,” Doc Rivers said at the team’s shootaround. “Honestly, we’ve got to get more out of our bench. The guys are on the floor too long. We just have to get more play out of our bench. Our bench has to come through for us.
“They have to play,” Rivers continued. “We’re not going to win this series playing five guys 45 minutes a night. It’s not going to happen. I believe in our bench and I think they’ll come through, but we need them to.”
There will be three days between Games 2 and 3, so that does leave an opening if Rivers feels the need to extend minutes, but that was also part of the rationale for working the starters so hard in Game 1 when the Celtics built an 11-point lead only to wind up losing by eight.
“We could extend minutes tonight, but we did just play on Saturday.,” Rivers said. “The break could go either way. If you win tonight you’d like to play tomorrow if you could. It does change your thinking a little bit honestly with the long lay off.”
Rivers indicated that he would like to get Wallace more involved in the post (as well as Paul Pierce), but don’t expect any major changes.
“The chess match comes when you think you’re overmatched as far as talent on the floor,” Rivers said. “Then you have to really try out of the box things. I don’t think either guy thinks that in this case.”
|05.02.10 at 5:03 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo might have the most difficult job of any player in the playoffs.
On the one hand, he is emerging as the Celtics best player and their best chance to upset Cleveland. On the other hand, he still has to make sure that his teammates, particularly Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are all involved in the offense.
“It’s difficult,” Rondo said. “I still believe that we have to go through the Big Three. I try to get those guys the ball as much as possible, but at the same time keep [the defense] honest. I guess in the second half that’s exactly what I did, called more movement plays. At the start of the third I was aggressive but after that I wanted the ball to keep moving. I wanted to keep everyone involved.”
The Cavaliers don’t have anyone who can guard him, so they tried three different players — Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and superfreak Jamario Moon in certain situation. Parker earned praise for containing Rondo in the second half after he blitzed Williams for 19 points and eight assists in the first half, but that’s a classic case of a cause and effect.
Rondo took just two shots and scored just eight points to go with four assists in the second half and for that, Parker gets the credit. But really the Celtics didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were available to them. Some of that is on Rondo, but not all of it.
“It’s a tough one for Rondo because he’s so conscious of Paul and Ray,” Rivers said. “If you have a pick and roll advantage you have to take advantage. I thought he tired to facilitate and the guys didn’t take advantage of it. We didn’t take advantage of what he created and that actually makes Rondo better if we do because then they can’t focus on him as much.”
If there was one overriding truth from Game 1 for the Celtics, it’s that Rondo has a huge mismatch over Williams, and no matter who the Cavs put on him, he has to take it upon himself to carry the load.
“I’m still trying to figure it out.,” Rondo said. “It’s hard at times. At first I wasn’t aggressive at all to start the game. As soon as I came out, maybe nine minutes into the game, and came to the sidelines, Doc was telling me to be aggressive. I just tried to turn it on and attack the rim.”
Is there a danger of relying too much on Rondo? A better question might be, as opposed to what?
“He’s a good player and he’s going to have the opportunity to get into the paint,” Rivers said. “Should we say they rely too much on LeBron? You got something going, you stick with it. I thought we should have done it more.”
|05.02.10 at 4:38 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rasheed Wallace has said all season that the playoffs are what motivates him, but after a disastrous regular season, the playoffs have been pretty much the same story for the Celtics prized free agent acquisition.
Wallace picked up three quick fouls in the first half and went 1-for-5 in 13 minutes of Game 1 against the Cavaliers. He was also a liability again on the defensive end where his rotations were slow and his help defense was lacking.
“He has to play better, bottom line,” Doc Rivers said Sunday. “He has to play better defense. The offense will come but he has to be a better defender. We can’t wait. He has to play better.”
Rivers elected not to use Shelden Williams despite the heavy foul trouble that Wallace and Glen Davis found themselves in early in the game. That might change, although Rivers didn’t quite his tip his hand on that front.
“He is in the discussion every day,” Rivers said of Williams.
Is he is it more today?
“No,” Rivers answered. “But he definitely is in that discussion.”
|05.02.10 at 4:32 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Many times in the NBA, the post-game reactions to what just occurred need to be tempered by what you see on the film later. Emotions are high, everyone is looking for that one key moment that changed everything (hello, Mo Williams), but after careful consideration the real truths start to emerge.
“I thought we settled,” Doc Rivers said. “I said it after the game. Usually after the game you say stuff and then you watch the film and half of it is true, half of it is what you thought you saw. But it’s pretty much what we saw. We bailed out on a lot of shots, quick shots. We didn’t make a lot of next passes, we didn’t attack. We had guys flying at us in the air and we’re still trying to shoot jump shots instead of putting the ball back on the floor. That’s not even an adjustment. That’s what we should do anyway.”
The obvious follow-up question to all that was whether the Celtics were tired at the end of the game after Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all logged between 38 and 45 minutes of time.
“It had nothing to do with fatigue,” Rivers said. “We settled. It happens.”
It wasn’t that the shots the Celtics took were necessarily bad ones either. Pierce had an open 3 that could have tied the game, but it didn’t fall. Garnett missed a number of shots in the lane, including a follow off an offensive rebound that he can make 99 times out of 100. But, the shots could have been better.
“I think the jumpers that we did get we’re good looks and that I’ll take,” Pierce said. “Doc talks about when the jumpers aren’t falling, you got to take the ball to the bucket. That’s part of the game. I was a little disappointed only going to the free throw line twice. I think I’ve got to be a little more aggressive in the paint. I’ll still take the shots that I took but I have to mix it up a little bit more.”
Pierce started off hot, making four of his five shots in the first quarter, but he was 1-for-12 after that.
What was particularly troubling to Rivers was that the Celtics didn’t handle the Cavs counter-attack very well. Yes, Williams lit up the crowd with a dunk, his first in a game with the Cavs, and yes he then went on a scoring binge, but the Celtics never had an answer for the run.
“We didn’t handle it well,” Rivers said. “We were walking, we didn’t get into our sets so it was easy to get us out of stuff. It was more because frustration was high. It happened, but it can’t happen, especially in a playoff game.”
As they prepared for Game 2, there was little talk of adjustments. Simply more effort and that was as evident Sunday afternoon as it was late Saturday evening.
|05.02.10 at 1:16 am ET|
CLEVELAND — It’s the story that won’t go away in this series and after a game in which LeBron James picked his spots instead of playing with his usual reckless abandon, the elbow dominated post-game talk, including a question about whether he had a cortisone shot.
“I did not take any shots,” he said. “I don’t like needles, so I didn’t do that. I tried not to hyperextend it any worse than it was. Did I come out a little tentative? I thought about it a little bit too much. It’s the first real injury I’ve had to play with, especially with it being on my shooting hand. I came out tentative, but if I’m on the court I have to be productive. I’m not a guy to make excuses.”
James took five shots in the first quarter, most of them in the lane, and missed four of them. He took two outside shots in the second quarter and missed them both. But then he heated up in the second half and finished with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting and 4-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I think his elbow is fine,” Doc Rivers said. “I’m pretty sure of it, actually. I really thought he was trying to get everyone involved. That’s what he does. He eases into the game and he actually did a pretty god job, but he just didn’t make some shots. You knew it was coming.”
|05.01.10 at 10:57 pm ET|
All eyes were on LeBron James — and his elbow — as the series opened. James had a quiet first quarter (1-5 FG) but finished with a game-high 35 points. He shot 12-for-24 from the floor, 3-for-6 from 3-point range, and 8-for-11 from the line.
The C’s were led by Rajon Rondo, who posted 27 points and 12 assists. Rondo’s most impressive offensive contribution was at the free throw line, where he hit 12 of his 14 attempts.
In spite of a dominating first half, the C’s were outscored 58-39 in the second half, as Mo Williams and James propelled the Cavs.
Turning point: With the Cavs up 96-93, Shaquille O’Neal missed a layin with 1:01 to go. However the Celtics failed to rebound, and O’Neal grabbed not one, but two offensive boards. He made the follow up shot over Kendrick Perkins to give the Cavs a critical five-point lead.
First Quarter: Celtics 26 – Cavaliers 20
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 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.
James led the Cavs with seven points, but five of them came at the line. He shot just 1-for-5 from the field.
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.
Halftime: Celtics 54 – Cavaliers 43
The first half of Game 1 belonged to 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, 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 had the bigger disadvantage. Glen Davis was called for four personals in the first half while Pierce and Rasheed Wallace have three apiece. For the Cavs, O’Neal was sidelined with three.
Tony Allen was assessed a technical foul from the bench for arguing and offensive foul called on Rondo.
Third quarter: Cavaliers 79 – Celtics 78
The Celtics lost control of their double-digit lead and trail by one entering the fourth quarter. James hit the go-ahead basket as time expired.
Led by 12 third quarter points from Williams, the Cavs outscored the Celtics, 36-24, in the third. James scored another nine to lead his team with 23 points.
Rondo continued to lead the Celtics with 24 points. He was sent to the bench, however, when he picked up his fourth foul in the third. Davis also had four fouls, while Pierce and Wallace had three apiece.
Fourth Quarter: Cavaliers 101, Celtics 93
The Cavs continued their offensive attack in the final 12 minutes. They outscored the Celtics, 22-15, in the fourth quarter to claim the comeback victory. In the end, the Celtics were whistled for 25 fouls, compared to 17 against the Cavs. Every Celtics starter except for Ray Allen was called for at least three fouls. The Cavs outscored the C’s, 21-17, at the line.
Game 2 will be played in Cleveland on Monday.
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