|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|
|05.07.10 at 11:10 pm ET|
|05.07.10 at 9:41 pm ET|
After a momentum building win in Game 2, the Celtics were crushed, 124-95 , by the Cavaliers on Friday in Boston. The Celtics never led and got down 6-0 early on. It was just the beginning of an offensive attack by the Cavaliers, who shot 59.5 percent from the field and 31-for-34 from the free throw line.
Defensively, the Celtics were ineffective on the glass. They were outrebounded, 45-30 (Antawn Jamison nabbed 12 boards). As a result, they were outscored 50-32 in the paint.
Player of the game: LeBron James led all players with 38 points (14/22 FG, 2/3 3PG, 8/9 FT), eight rebounds, and seven assists. He scored 21 points in the first quarter alone to set the tone early on.
Turning point: With the score Cavs 10, Celtics 8, Kendrick Perkins committed a flagrant foul against James five minutes into the first quarter. The Cavs then went on a 10-0 run (eight points from James) to build a lead they never surrendered.
First Quarter: Cavaliers 36, Celtics 17
James scored 21 points in the first quarter, four more than the entire Celtics team combined, to give the Cavs a 19-point lead. But James wasn’t the only problem for the Celtics early on. The C’s were outrebounded, 15-5. None of the starters grabbed more than one board, while Antawn Jamison nabbed six of his own. Paul Pierce played just nine minutes after shooting 0-for-5 from the field. James scored 14 points with Pierce on the court. Kendrick Perkins was also sidelined early, picking up two fouls including a flagrant committed on a James fast break.
Halftime: Cavaliers 65, Celtics 43
Even though James only scored 7 points in the second half, the Celtics still trailed the Cavs, 65-43. It is three more points than their first quarter deficit. James led all players at the half with 28 points (11/15 FG, 1/1 3PG, 5/5 FT) in 20 minutes. Rondo (6/13 FG) and Garnett (5/7 FG) scored 12 points apiece for the Celtics. After going scoreless in the first quarter, Pierce scored seven in the second. James’ scoring aside, the most glaring stat was on the defensive end. The Cavs had a 25-10 advantage on the boards. James had eight, one more than the Celtics starting five combined.
Third Quarter: Cavaliers 96, Celtics 70
The Cavaliers’ dominance continued in the third quarter, as they took a 96-70 lead going into the final 12 minutes. James scored another seven points to bring his total to 35 points through three quarters. The Celtics got their biggest offensive spark from Nate Robinson, who scored eight points (2/3 FG, 2/2 3PG, 2/2 FT) in three minutes off the bench. Rondo and Garnett still led the C’s (16 points apiece), but both players only scored four in the quarter. The Celtics were outrebounded by 20 boards, 34-14. Antawn Jamison recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The question at the end of the quarter was whether Doc Rivers would turn to the bench or play the starters for a final push.
Fourth Quarter: Cavaliers 124, Celtics 95
The Cavaliers led by over 30 points but it might as well have been a three-point game with all the tension on the court. There were hard fouls, technical fouls, and arguments over fouls that Celtics fans took offense too. Garnett got T’ed up after getting tangled up with Anderson Varejao under the basket following a free throw. Varejao was assessed a loose ball foul. Even though that call prompted boos, the loudest jeers were heard when James argued a hard foul committed by Robinson with the Cavs up 27 points. Both teams turned to their bench late in the fourth as the Cavs easily walked away with the win.
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