|12.13.08 at 8:53 am ET|
Yet another sign on Friday night that these Celtics may be even better and more focused than last year’s 66-win, NBA-champion group. The C’s came in after an 8 p.m. game the night before in Washington and had to battle the talented New Orleans Hornets, with James Posey making his return and collecting his ring. After circling at midcourt and doing Ubuntu one more time with the man Doc Rivers said understood it as well as anyone, the Celtics went out and won their 14th straight, matching their longest since March-April 1986. Rajon Rondo didn’t have his finest game but Paul Pierce more than picked up the slack with 28 points. Even Pose had to concede that this team may be even better than last year’s group.
|12.13.08 at 1:06 am ET|
Sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic is saving his long range game for the regular season. The two-time Three-Point Shootout champion will no longer compete in the All-Star Weekend contest.
“I did that so many times so I don’t think I need to do it again,” he said on Friday night prior to the New Orleans Hornets-Boston Celtics game.
Stojakovic participated in five Three-Point Shootouts, dating back to 2001 as a member of the Sacramento Kings. He dethroned Celtics guard Ray Allen to win back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. Stojakovic took a three-year hiatus before returning this past February to show his appreciation for the host city of New Orleans. He looks forward to spending time with his family during the All-Star Break.
|12.12.08 at 9:58 pm ET|
All the talk before the Celtics-Hornets game was about the point guards. That’s not unusual when a player like Chris Paul comes to town, but what was unusual was the use of the plural. Guards. Rajon Rondo has put himself in some select company, and yes that includes CP3, even if Paul did wind up outplaying him this time around.
“This year, they’re calling it a matchup,” Doc Rivers said before tip-off. “That shows you far he’s come.”
Respect has come the hard way for Rondo, who played Paul to a standstill in two epic encounters last season, but is just now beginning to receive the league-wide accolades. Relaxing in his chair and holding court with reporters before the game–he’s one of the few Celtics who does–Rondo was nonplussed about facing Paul, dishing out the usual boilerplate about it being a team game and a team effort.
In that sense, Rondo was right because of all the reasons for the Celtics win, Rondo’s play was not high on the list. “We had to go with different lineups,” Rivers said. “You know, Rondo wasn’t Rondo and Eddie had to step in.” The kid is entitled to a mulligan, especially considering the way he’s played over the last month, but after tonight, it doesn’t get any easier.
Deron Williams and Utah come to town on Monday. On Wednesday Rondo matches up with one his mentors, Mike Bibby of Atlanta, and then on Friday it’s a return engagement with leading Rookie of the Year contender, Derrick Rose and Chicago. Not that it should, but if anyone is still waiting to put Rondo in the elite class of point guards, this week will be a referendum.
Don’t tell New Orleans coach Byron Scott that Rondo has anything left to prove. “He’s playing at a high level,” Scott said. “He doesn’t get himself into trouble. He’s got different speeds, which is important, and he finishes. There’s nothing he can’t do well, except shoot from the outside.”
It seems rather amazing that everyone in the league knows this, and Friday night notwithstanding, very few teams are able to take advantage of Rondo’s still-shaky jumper. ESPN’s David Thorpe pointed out in a story on Rondo (Insider only) that he takes more than half of his shots from inside the paint and has an Effective Field Goal percentage of 72 percent. (You can see those numbers on 82games.com).
For a player who is listed at 6-1, 171 pounds, that’s unheard of. Paul, for example, takes a little more than a third of his shots from close range. Despite Rondo’s off-night, he didn’t play that poorly, scoring 10 points to go with six rebounds, and helping limit Paul to a 5-for-16 shooting night. Again, a sign of how far he’s come when that is considered a poor performance.
Don’t expect his off night to linger. As always with Rondo, the word “confidence” is the primary adjective. It’s not cockiness, necessarily, it’s more a strong sense of self that Rondo exudes. In the pregame he was asked when it was that he began to assert himself. “Pretty much from Day One,” he said. “I had to get these guys respect. I asked Doc if that was all right and he said that it was. I respect the years those guys have in the game, but I’m the point guard. I have to be the leader.”
There has been this notion that it’s hard for Rondo to be that leader, what with strong personalities like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor. Ask him about that and he just shrugs. Besides, gaining the respect of his coach is the most important thing.
Rivers has been hard on his point guard. That’s just his way. That’s how Mike Fratello was with him when he a young player trying to make his mark on a Hawks team with Dominique Wilkins, no shrinking violet. A good game by Rondo would be met with a request for more, a bad one would have Rivers shaking his head.
It wasn’t until the conference championship against the Pistons when everyone was conceding the matchup with Chauncey Billups, that Rivers began to loudly advocate for his guard. Rondo repaid that trust by completely outplaying the veteran.
“With every team, the point guard and the coach have to have a relationship,” Rivers said. “With Rajon he’s been able to go and run the sets without looking at me.”
One more Rondo story. Apparently the flight home from Washington was a little rough. “It was rocky,” he said. “KG was screaming.” How did he take the turbulence? “I was calm.” He’s the point guard. He has to be calm.
|12.12.08 at 9:35 pm ET|
To Rajon Rondo, every point guard is just as important as the next. Whether they are on a four-win team or a playoff contender, each one presents a challenge. So that explains why he seemed unphased by playing two of the hottest point guards in two games. In fact, he didn’t even realize that was on the schedule.
‘I don’t look at it like that,’ Rondo said before Friday’s game. ‘Every night I feel like at the point guard position is pretty tough no matter who we’re against. I didn’t know we played Utah next but last night I had Juan Dixon and tonight I have Chris Paul, so that’s just part of the NBA. I think the point guard is the hardest position to guard each night.’
Paul posted 20 points, 14 assists, and six rebounds while Rondo posted 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists in the Celtics 94-82 victory over the Hornets.
|12.12.08 at 8:04 pm ET|
Lucky the Leprachaun landed a “dipsy-do” dunk to kick off the fourth quarter. Celtics are up by five and would enjoy a few “dipsy-dos” themselves to boost their lead …
– Let’s recap at a nine-minute timeout and take a look at free-throw shooting: Celtics 14-23, Hornets 17-24. That’s a total of 16 missed points in a 10-point game. Safe to say both teams will be hitting the line in practice.
– Posey’s doing what Posey does best — being a pest. In a matter of minutes he drew an offensive foul on Tony Allen, bounced the ball off TA’s foot to maintain posession, and drew a foul on Pierce from behind the arc for three free throws.
– At a 2:30 timeout this game is far from over. Chris Paul (19 points, 14 assists) has put the Hornets right back into this. Paul has held Rondo to just two assists and is showing why he’s an MVP candidate at just 23 years old.
– The Celtics bench are on their feet after an alley oop from Ray Allen to KG followed by Perk drawing an offensive foul on Paul. TA is waving is towel and dancing.
- Game over. Celtics 94, Hornets 82.
|12.12.08 at 7:27 pm ET|
Considering how inefficiently the Celtics played in the first quarter, they are fortunate to down by just a point as we hit the second half. It’s anyone ballgame, friends… Read the rest of this entry »
|12.12.08 at 6:41 pm ET|
For a first quarter recap, check out Paul’s blog.
– Interesting match up to start the second quarter. Tony Allen is guarding James Posey, the very player who ate up his minutes last season. Now TA is the Celtics first option at the wing off the bench, and tonight will be a test to see how far he has come since last season.
– Trivia tidbit … Leon Powe and Sean Marks are both alumni of the University of the California. Marks, who has spent a quiet 10 years in the league, is only the second New Zealand native to play in the NBA. Kirk Penney played a total of six games for the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers a few years back.
– The look on Devin Brown’s face was classic when Rajon Rondo blew past the Hornets defenders on a drive to the hoop. After the lay-in Brown stood in the paint in confusion, as if looking at his teammates for an explanation of how that just happened.
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