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Rondo brushes off injury talk

05.26.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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ORLANDO — As he did after Game 4, Rajon Rondo dismissed talk that he was dealing with any kind of a serious injury. “I’m feeling better,” he said before the team’s shootaround. “I’m fine. Nothing to worry about. I’ll be playing.”

The team said that Rondo had a muscle spasm during Game 4, but Rondo refused to use that as an excuse after he scored just nine points, to go with eight assists, while Jameer Nelson scored 23 points in the Magic’s win. “I’ve just got to play better,” he said after the game.

The Magic used Nelson on a variation on their high pick and roll by having Rashard Lewis set a screen that led into another screen with Dwight Howard. Nelson repeatedly got into the lane against the Celtics and had nine assists. He also was able to get Howard several dunks on lobs once the defense committed.

The Celtics will have to come up with a counter to that for Game 5 and it will have to start with a healthy Rondo.

Read More: Jameer Nelson, Rajon Rondo,

NBA Finals set to begin on June 3

05.26.10 at 11:06 am ET
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After the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to even their series at two games apiece, the NBA officially announced the NBA Finals schedule.

  • Thursday, June 3: Game 1, 9 p.m.
  • Sunday June 6: Game 2, 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 8: Game 3, 9 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 10: Game 4, 9 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 13: Game 5*, 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 15: Game 6*, 9 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 17: Game 7*, 9 p.m

* if necessary

Read More: Celtics, Lakers, NBA Finals,

A day for Celtics Game 5 success?

05.26.10 at 12:11 am ET
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On Wednesday, the Celtics will look to wrap up the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 against the Magic in Orlando.

If they are able to do so, it would not be the first time a Celtics team has pulled off a significant Game 5 win on May 26.

On May 26, 1987, Larry Bird infamously stole an inbounds pass from Isiah Thomas and dished to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning basket against the Detroit Pistons in the Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics went on the win the series in seven games before ultimately falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

(Click here for extended footage.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Larry Bird,

Report: Hornets make formal offer to Thibodeau

05.25.10 at 10:53 pm ET
By   |   Comments’€™s Marc Stein has reported the New Orleans Hornets have made a formal offer to Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau for their head coaching position. But with the Celtics in the midst of the Eastern Conference Finals, a timetable for Thibodeau’€™s decision was unknown.

Thibodeau has been credited for the Celtics defensive success, which is holding opponents to just 90.4 points this postseason. The Hornets allowed nearly 103 points per game during the regular season, tied for 21st in the league. The C’s, on the other hand, were tied for fifth with 95.6 points allowed during the regular season.

According to the report, the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets are still considering Thibodeau for their head coaching vacancies as well.

Read More: Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets, Tom Thibodeau,

Rondo front and center on Sports Illustrated

05.25.10 at 10:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo is featured on the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, which hit newsstands on Tuesday.

(For those worried about an SI cover jinx, yes the magazine came out a day after Rondo suffered muscle spasms during the Celtics Game 4 overtime loss to the Magic, but his stat line actually fared worse in Game 1.)

Cover superstitions aside, Rondo is ready to bounce back on Wednesday as the Celtics look to wrap up the series against the Magic in Orlando, where they have already won two games.

“We didn’t get to close out, but we gotta move on to Game 5,” he said following Game 4. “We gave them confidence, now we’ve got to try to take it back away. They’re pretty confident at home, so we’ve got to get off to a good start on the road.”

Rondo isn’t the only player in the Eastern Conference Finals to be featured by Sports Illustrated with “Celtics” across his chest. Click here to see which member of the Magic once wore green.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Rajon Rondo

Pierce: ‘We can still take care of business’

05.25.10 at 1:18 am ET
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Paul Pierce knew exactly what was at stake Monday night when he dribbled and then lost the ball at the end of regulation.

It was a chance, with the game tied at 86-86, to make one more shot and put away the Magic in four straight games and advance to the NBA Finals. But instead he lost the ball and the Magic were able to stay alive in overtime, outscoring Boston, 10-6 and win 96-92 to force Game 5 Wednesday night in Orlando.

The Magic still trail 3-1 but all of sudden, with two of the next potential three games on Orlando’s home court, the perspective of the series has changed, if only slightly.

“They’re a great team. We’re not going to take them for granted so Game 5 is going to be a tough one on their floor,” Pierce said. “We didn’t want to go back on their floor to play but it is what it is but we’ve got to get another win in their building. That’s the goal.

“We really don’t want to come back here for Game 6. The sense of urgency is going to be there when we get on the road so hopefully, we can take care of business.”

Pierce also took responsibility for the final play of regulation that resulted in no shot for the Celtics and allowed the Magic to survive to overtime.

Pierce had the ball in his hands and was supposed to run a play that called for a pick and roll with Ray Allen but Pierce never got the ball to Allen and Jameer Nelson knocked it away and as time expired.

“We didn’t want to call a time out,” Pierce said the Celtics’ decision to forego a timeout. “It was a pick and roll, me and Ray Allen and I pretty much screwed it up, turned the ball over. That’s all it is, couldn’t get the final shot. Sometimes it happens that way. That’s no excuse and we still had opportunities in overtime and we didn’t take advantage.”

Pierce still finished with a team-high 32 points in over 46 minutes of action.

‘€œ[It was] definitely a tough loss,” Pierce said. “You fight so hard to get back in the game and all the ties. I just think the little things hurt us. I thought we really pressed too much, each of us wanted to do it. We weren’€™t doing the things that got us the 3-0 lead. We kind of felt we was pressing to get the win. They’€™re a good team and they’€™re not going to lay down and we can expect them to so gotta move on to Game 5.

“At the end of the day, even though we struggled to get some momentum offensively it still doesn’€™t, we still didn’€™t play any defense down the stretch. We gave them a three, offensive rebounds and sent them to the line there in the 4th quarter and overtime. Those type of things hurt when you’€™re trying to come back. But we made our bed, we gotta lay in and move on.’€

Read More: Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Magic, Paul Pierce

Three things that went right and wrong in Game 4

05.25.10 at 12:03 am ET
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The Magic are still alive in the Eastern Conference Final, knocking off the Celtics in a 96-92 overtime battle in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series.

The Celtics rallied from a 85-78 deficit late in the fourth quarter to force the extra five minutes, but were held scoreless for the first 3:14 of OT. Jameer Nelson (23 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers in overtime and Dwight Howard added four points to give the Magic the win and a pulse in the series, which continues Wednesday night in Orlando.

Three Things That Went Wrong

No Answer for Howard

Give Howard credit: He did not go down quietly. He dominated Kendrick Perkins (no small feat) and Rasheed Wallace, a pair that has given him problems during the series. Howard finished the game with 32 points (on 13-of-19 shooting) and 16 rebounds, also blocking four shots. Deserved all the hits he took after Game 3 but was a monster on Monday night. Was absolutely the difference in overtime, killing the Celtics on the glass. Needs to work on free throws (looked almost Knoblauch-esque at the end, going glass once), but in Game 4 you saw why Howard is an All-NBA player. If he just plays well on Monday the season is over for Orlando. They needed an MVP performance, and he delivered.

Where Was the Composure?

Sure, Garnett should have been miffed at Howard for the elbow, but don’t you just let it go? Did he learn nothing from the Miami fracas with Quentin Richardson? Is it worth risking a possible suspension in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to get into it with Howard in a series that you led 3-0? I’m not saying that Garnett did anything suspension-worthy, but he put himself in a spot where it could have easily happened. And he has to know better than that.

And Kendrick Perkins completely overreacted to a Howard foul later on in the quarter. A tough foul? Yes. A dirty foul? Nope. This is the NBA playoffs, not a preseason game at the Mohegan Sun. Have to be ready for some physical play. Throw in a ‘Sheed T in the fourth quarter (and he wasn’t done with the ref, he could have been kicked out) and it was not a study in character in Game 4.

And I’ll throw the lousy offensive possessions down the stretch in here as well. No shot attempt in the final play of regulation, following a terrible Pierce shot from the possession prior? And did you like that Glen Davis 3-point attempt at the end of the game? Strange stuff.

Other Than Davis, A Rough Night For the Bench

Wallace, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson (Nate had the worst cameo since M. Night Shyamalan in Signs) combined to shoot 3-of-10 from the floor. Wallace morphed back into the guy that we saw in the regular season, hitting on 2-of-7 shots (and missing all four 3-point attempts.)

Three Things That Went Right

The Truth Did the Heavy Lifting (For the First 48 Minutes, Anyway)

Pierce carried the Celtics in the first half, scoring 19 points on 6-8 shooting. He was also able to get to the basket at will in the early going, attempting 10 free throws in the first 24 minutes of Game 4 (making seven.) He took over in the fourth as well, with a dunk, jumper and three-point play to help the Celtics wipe out an 85-78 Orlando lead. Pierce finished the game with 32 points, which continues a terrific series for the Celtics’ captain. Rondo was the unquestioned MVP of the regular season and each of the first two rounds for the Celtics, but it has been Pierce who has led the way for Boston in this series.

Big Baby Brings the Energy

This is why Glen Davis is on the floor in the fourth quarter of a tight Eastern Conference Finals game. In a three-minute stretch he ran down a long rebound off of a Rasheed Wallace missed 3-pointer, took a charge on Vince Carter, scored on a screen-and-roll, hit an 18-footer and blocked a Rashard Lewis shot. On a night when Kendrick Perkins brought nothing to the table credit Doc for sticking with Davis down the stretch. He’s simply making too many plays not to out on the floor for 20+ minutes a game at this point.

(And how about that block on Howard in OT? I know Howard followed it up for a hoop, but still. I’m not sure Glen Davis is even 6’6 and he’s doing that? What is underplayed when the Big Baby story is told is his athleticism.)

Double-Double For KG

Another strong effort for Garnett, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He logged 41 minutes in Game 4 and didn’t seem to be lacking for energy in overtime.

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