WALTHAM — The Celtics  have unveiled so many keys for their series with the Cavaliers  that they will need a ring just to keep them all straight. In addition to defensive rebounding, defending the 3-point line, energy from the bench, and, of course, guarding LeBron James , you can add one more: Rajon Rondo .
The Lakers get a lot of credit for devising the free safety defense on Rondo, but it was the Cavaliers in the 2008 conference semifinals who first effectively neutralized Rondo in a playoff series by simply not guarding him. In that series, the Cavs held him to single-digits in scoring four times and without an assist in another.
“Rondo’s the key to the series,” Doc Rivers  said after practice Friday. “His speed has to be a factor in this series. He has to be disruptive defensively with his speed and it’s all pressure. They’re going to help off of him. Really how well he handles them trapping off of them and really not guarding him will be the key for us winning. When he’s effective our whole team is effective.”
The Celtics expect James will guard Rondo at times, which would allow him to essentially cause havoc by roaming around the defensive end.
“It’s movement off the ball,” Rivers said. “When he has the ball it’s no issue. When he doesn’t have the ball he has to be a great cutter and he has to be a great decision-maker once we swing the ball back to him. He has to catch it on the run and get back on the attack.”
Rondo’s reaction to being told that he was the latest key to the series?
Yes, Doc said they were going to play off you and you have to take advantage of it.
Have there been things you’ve learned over the years about playing against those defenses?
It seems like if you’ve kept moving and kept the ball moving you can minimize that and still be productive.
“There you have it.”
Rondo knows, obviously, what’s in front of him and what he has to do. It should be pointed out that his reactions to the same questions he’s heard hundreds of times before were fairly playful. It’s also worth noting that he’s had good success against the Cavs this season, averaging almost 15 points and more than 10 assists in four games.
So, Rajon, are you excited about the challenge?
You don’t show it. You’re pretty pumped up for this?