PHILADELPHIA — A lot of coaches say they want to make life difficult on Rajon Rondo .
But Doug Collins  said Thursday that if his Sixers don’t do a better job of putting up a fight against the superstar point guard in Game 4, his team essentially has no shot.
“We never got Rondo stopped all night long,” Collins said of Rondo. “He took the ball wherever he wanted to take it on the floor. We have to take that challenge. We have to take on the challenge that he’s the guy that going to push on the [fast] break, he’s going to get the ball up the floor, he’s going to make the passes, he’s going to be the guy who’s initiating most of their stuff. We have to take the challenge of doing a better job on him.”
Rondo got to the basket time after time, made 9-of-16 shots and finished with 23 points and 14 assists and help the Celtics  rediscover their swagger in Game 3. Even when the Sixers led by five after one quarter, Collins was worried.
“We just weren’t sharp from the start,” he said. “A lot of our defensive coverages, and all the things we do. Even in that first quarter, we were up, 33-28, we missed about six layups, six shots in the paint. We never had a grip on the game, defensively. When we went cold a little bit in the second quarter, I told the guys we had 33 points at the quarter and we had six points in the first five or six minutes of the second quarter. Normally, when your defense has to carry you through those moments, [Wednesday] it didn’t.
“I just think the competitiveness. So much is made of Xs and Os. They made a little bit of change on their screen-roll coverage so we talked about that. They did some things differently on screen-rolls. But it’s not a lot of Xs and Os. It’s toughness, competitiveness. The first two games came down to one possession. We have to do a better job when Kevin Garnett  is off the floor. He’s plus-47 when on the floor. We have to do a better job. We can’t let them go to their bench and build a lead and then let him come back at the end of the half fresh and then let them finish the half strong. That’s what’s been happening.”
Indeed, when Garnett re-enters the game, he’s been huge before halftime. The Celtics have been outscoring the Sixers in the final minutes of the second quarter and the opening moments of the third quarter, 44-15, in the first three games.
“He rests after about six minutes, they bring him back, and then they play him and he looks fresh at the end of the half. We’re minus-29 points ending the second quarter and starting the third in all three games.”
But what alarmed Collins from the start Wednesday was the lack of team defense from the jump.
“I never take away from a team playing well offensively,” Collins said in giving the Celtics credit. “I just didn’t think we put up a lot of resistance.”
“Well, we need more production, no question about that,” Collins said. “Our big guys have to be able to make some shots. We let Garnett make some easy shots then that frees up that jump shot. He made a conscious effort to get the ball in the paint early. We gave him a couple of fast break opportunities and a chance to get to the foul line.
“In watching the game, it wasn’t the team I’d seen against Chicago or the previous two Boston games. To watch it in person is one thing. To watch it on tape is even more damning. I said very little. I just sort of watched. Sometimes, they don’t need to hear me too much.”