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Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo

05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET
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MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.

Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.

That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.

Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.

“You can’€™t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’€™ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”

Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.

“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’€™t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”

True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it.

IT’S A SHAME ABOUT RAY

It’s bordering on the morose when it comes to Ray Allen, who can’t make a shot — not even a free throw — and is a liability on defense. The Celtics say they’re going to continue running him out there, but five points in 38 minutes is not nearly enough of a return.

“Not yet. We’€™re good,” Rivers said. “Ray is Ray. We’€™re just going to keep rolling him on out there and see what we can get. If we feel like he can’€™t give it to us then we’€™ll go with someone else. Right now, you have to give Ray a fighting chance. Every time. You go into the game and you watch. It’€™s just going to be that way. It’€™s not the easiest thing to do, and it’€™s obviously hard for Ray.”

Rivers got decent mileage out of playing Keyon Dooling on Wade, but it’s only a matter of time before Wade tries to post him up. They have Mickael Pietrus, but he has to make shots and he has other responsibilities when the Heat go small with wing players like Shane Battier and Mike Miller, who combined for 18 points in Game 1.

Despite his struggles, Rivers continues to trust Allen.

“I always believe Ray will figure it out,” he said. “You clearly never saw me shoot the basketball. What the hell can I tell Ray? I don’€™t think I’€™ve ever said a word to Ray in my life about shooting. We do have to try to get him open more to give him time. The one thing you can say that he’€™s changed, it’€™s not as quick, his release.”

This is their biggest area of concern and unless they can address it, or someone can make a few shots, it will be a short series.

CAN THE ZONE WORK?

Back in December, the Celtics used a zone to help them get back in a game against the Heat. It’s a common strategy against Miami, but as spelled out in a must-read piece by SI’s Zach Lowe, they were actually more efficient against the zone than traditional defenses.

The Celtics forced stops on six of their seven possessions after Rivers went to it late in Game 1, but that was more luck than design, as Rivers himself noted.

“I thought we were lucky,” the coach said. “I thought they missed five wide-open shots. I think our zone will play a part in this series but not if we played it like we played it [in Game 1]. That was a horrendous zone.”

Considering Allen’s struggles, as well as the difficult task of trying to stop LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, they may have no choice.

PAGING THE ROLE PLAYERS

With the exception of Kevin Garnetts 23 points and 1o rebounds, no one on the Celtics had a good night, but their collective funks were made worse by players like Miller, Battier and Joel Anthony who combined to give Miami 21 points and 19 rebounds.

Aside from Greg Stiemsma, who had a solid four points and four rebounds in 11 minutes, the Celtics got just eight points and two rebounds from Brandon Bass and no offensive production at all from Pietrus.

“We need more from the Boston Celtics,” Rivers said. “We’€™re not going to point at one guy.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen
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