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Three-Pointer: Rajon Rondo and ‘coach’s porn’

04.01.11 at 12:34 am ET
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Even Rajon Rondo's jump shot was working against the Spurs. (AP)

What a difference a game makes.

The Celtics had been reeling, losing seven of their last 12 games and nearly falling to third place behind the Bulls and Heat in the Eastern Conference — inspiring concerns about everything from the physical health of both O’Neals to the mental health of their start point guard.

But the Celtics also hadn’t played a contender in the last 12 games, or since Feb. 13 for that matter. The Celtics have proven themselves plenty over the last four seasons — as NBA champions in 2008 and as underdog runners-up in 2010 – but entering Thursday night’s game in San Antonio they found themselves needing to prove themselves once again.

After the trade of Kendrick Perkins and following a 5-7 record with the East’s No. 1 seed on the line, can the Celtics still compete with the NBA’s best? After a 107-97 victory against the league-leading Spurs (57-18) on the road without a healthy center, the answer was clear. (The complete game recap can be found here.)

Among the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat, only Chicago can match the Celtics’ performance against the NBA elite. Here are their records in games against each other:

  • Celtics: 8-4
  • Bulls: 8-4
  • Spurs: 7-6
  • Mavericks: 6-6
  • Lakers: 4-7
  • Heat: 3-9

The Celtics now boast a .667 winning percentage against the league’s five other major NBA title contenders, and two of their four losses to those teams came against a Mavericks team that the C’s likely won’t face again, even if they were to return to the NBA Finals.

There’s plenty of points to take from Thursday night’s Celtics victory. Here are three of them:

RAJON RONDO BEING RAJON RONDO

In two games since taking a mental health day or resting an ailing pinky finger or whatever the heck kept Rajon Rondo from playing against the Timberwolves on Sunday, the Celtics point guard has produced 44 points on 20-of-33 shooting and 22 points against only one turnover.

To make a long story short, Rondo is back.

Rondo went through a five-game stretch in mid-March when he didn’t reach double figures in points or assists, causing many to question whether the absence of his pal Perkins had taken its toll mentally — a notion that in retrospect seems silly considering his aptitude  and fortitude.

Perhaps the greatest affirmation of Rondo’s return is the fact that he took nine shots from beyond nine feet — and knocked down six of them (66.7 percent). He entered the game shooting just 34.6 percent from 10-15 feet and 38.0 percent from 16-23 feet.

“That was terrific,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “Hell, I’m going to say it. I probably shouldn’t, but I call it coach’s porn. We kept moving the ball, and Rondo kept taking shots and I was yelling that jokingly to them. We were laughing, because we had a joke about it that I won’t get into. It was terrific.”

There you have it. Rondo performed so well that Rivers dubbed it “coach’s porn.”

HOW BIG IS THE BIGS PROBLEM?

With the benefit of hindsight, knowing now that neither of the O’Neal’s would play again until almost April, Celtics president Danny Ainge recently claimed he would have still made the deal that sent Perkins to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green.

The reasoning? The C’s still would’ve been without Perkins for three weeks after the trade and even now would be relying on a guy with one recovering ACL and another recuperating MCL — as opposed to a healthy Krstic to go along with the inevitable O’Neal returns.

If you believe in jinxes, that may have been one. During a second-quarter fast break, Krstic’s knee bent in the wrong direction. He clutched his right knee as he left the game and retired to the locker room. Soon afterward, Rivers told TNT sideline reporter David Aldridge, “We don’t know for sure, but it does not look good.”

It doesn’t sound good, either. Krstic, who tore his left ACL in 2006 as a member of the Nets, will reportedly undergo an MRI in Boston on Saturday to determine his future.

On the bright side, Jermaine O’Neal returned from a knee injury of his own after missing 56 games and not playing since Jan. 10. He played 11 minutes. He moved well. He shot well (2-of-2). And he defended fairly well. He did not rebound well. However, all in all, it was a positive sign.

Should he, Shaquille O’Neal — scheduled to return by April 5 — and Glen Davis (16 points and 8 boards in 32 minutes against the Spurs) be able to piece together 48 minutes a night in the playoffs, there’s a chance the Celtics could survive even without a healthy Krstic.

IT’S A SHAME ABOUT RAY ALLEN

While Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett performed exceptionally against the Spurs, the Celtics’ fourth All-Star struggled once again. In 41 minutes of action, Ray Allen made just 3-of-11 shots (1-of-4 3-pointers), committed four turnovers and grabbed zero rebounds.

Emerging from a team-wide offensive funk, Rondo, Pierce and Garnett combined for 63 points, 25 rebounds and 24 assists. Yet, the game’s greatest shooter couldn’t find his stroke.

Once threatening to finally reach “the holy trinity of shooting” (50-40-90) that’s eluded him throughout his career, Allen has dipped below the 50 percent field-goal percentage mark — thanks to his 22-of-64 shooting (34.4 percent) over the last six games.

Of course, Allen has gone through similar slumps during his four years in Boston, but his poor shooting of late is just one more sign that the Celtics aren’t playing — as Garnett so eloquently has stated — at “full throttle” quite yet.

Read More: Boston Celtics, nenad krstic, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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