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Rondo latest key to the series 04.30.10 at 3:28 pm ET
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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?

“Really.”

Yes, Doc said they were going to play off you and you have to take advantage of it.

“We’ll see.”

Have there been things you’ve learned over the years about playing against those defenses?

“Not really.”

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?

“Yeah.”

You don’t show it. You’re pretty pumped up for this?

“Yeah.”

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Rivers on LeBron’s MVP: He deserves it 04.30.10 at 2:53 pm ET
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WALTHAM – We still don’t know if LeBron James will wind up winning the MVP award with a unanimous vote, but there was no argument from the Celtics about his worthiness.

“He deserves it,” Doc Rivers said. “He earned it all year, so congratulations. I don’€™t think after Kobe [Bryant], and [Kevin] Durant and Dwight Howard, who doesn’€™t get enough credit for what he does with that team, there weren’t a lot of other choices.”

James is scheduled to be awarded the trophy by David Stern before Game 2.

“I hope it’€™s a distraction for them,” Rivers said. “It won’€™t be a distraction for us. None of us are getting it. Hopefully he won’€™t give a long speech and we can go and play basketball.”

The glamour matchup in this series is James and Paul Pierce, but Rivers suspects that James won’t simply be guarding Pierce.

“Paul’€™s going to be Paul,” Rivers said. “We’€™re not going to be going away from Paul because LeBron is guarding him. Paul’€™s our offensive guy so we’€™re going to still go to him. I don’€™t think LeBron will be guarding Paul but half the time. I think LeBron will be guarding Rondo and others.”

Read More: LeBron James, Paul Pierce,
LeBron to win MVP 04.30.10 at 10:46 am ET
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Various outlets in Cleveland are reporting that LeBron James has won his second straight Most Valuable Player award. According to the Plain-Dealer, it will be formally announced Sunday and he will be presented with the trophy by commissioner David Stern prior to Game 2 with the Celtics, Monday night.

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Times set on Celtics-Cavs series 04.30.10 at 8:59 am ET
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Game 1 of the Celtics-Cavaliers series is set for 8 p.m., the league announced. The game will be broadcast on TNT, with radio coverage on WEEI. Times have been set for all of the games except Games 5 and 6.

Game 1: Saturday, May 1, Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Monday, May 3, Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, May 7, Cleveland at Boston, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Sunday, May 9, Cleveland at Boston, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
*Game 5: Tuesday, May 11, Boston at Cleveland, TBD (TNT)
*Game 6: Thursday, May 13, Cleveland at Boston, TBD (ESPN)
*Game 7: Sunday, May 16, Boston at Cleveland, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

* if necessary

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Is it Marquis’ time? 04.29.10 at 5:49 pm ET
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WALTHAM – One of the enduring mysteries of this Celtics season has been: What has become of Marquis Daniels?

The versatile veteran was supposed to fill several roles, including backup point guard and reserve swingman, but after a solid start, Daniels hurt his thumb and missed 28 games. When he returned in February he put together a string of solid outings but then seemed to regress. By the time April rolled around he was all but of the rotation and he played just six minutes against the Heat, with all of it coming in the Game 2 blowout.

“As a player you want to go out there and compete,” Daniels said. “That’€™s definitely difficult. You’€™ve just got to stay ready whenever your time comes. You’€™re physically ready, you’ve just got to stay mentally ready.”

But what changed?

“I don’€™t know,” he said. “It’€™s coach’s decision. They felt like they needed to make a change and it worked out well for us in the first round, so hopefully we can keep it up.”

There’s a chance that Daniels could get some meaningful playing time in this series, however. With LeBron James on the other side, Doc Rivers will need all able-bodied forwards he can find. Paul Pierce obviously is first in line, and then comes Tony Allen, but Daniels could play a role.

Rivers indicated that was a possibility. There also may be a role for Nate Robinson, depending how things play out. Rivers has said that he remains confident in all of his players. He may get a chance to test that confidence in this series.

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The Celtics as underdogs 04.29.10 at 5:31 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Leave it to Kendrick Perkins to sum up the question: Are the Celtics the underdogs in this seres: “Yup.”

It’s not hard to figure out and it’s definitely not a respect thing. While the Celtics were sleepwalking through stretches of the regular season, the Cavaliers were putting up the best record in the NBA.

“Pretty much I guess, yeah,” Paul Pierce said. “We’€™re the four seed, they’€™re the one seed. They’€™re the favorite to win it all, we are the underdogs.”

It’s a different feeling for the Celtics, but they are embracing their new role.

“Being an underdog is nothing,” Pierce said. “I feel like I’€™ve been the underdog my whole career. I definitely thrive in that situation. We’€™ll see how it turns out. There’€™s no pressure on us.”

In the end, it doesn’t really matter heading into the series. If one team gets up in the series, the other will feel the pressure regardless of who or what is supposed to happen. It’s not like the Celtics are in awe, either.

“I don’€™t know if we feel like that,” Doc Rivers said. “I think everyone feels like we are. We’€™ve been there before. Going into the championship series [against the Lakers], no one picked us outside of Boston. I don’€™t think we care one way or the other. We have to go out there and earn it. Orlando is the defending champions of the East. I don’€™t know how Cleveland’€™s been anointed that already. They have to earn it and we want to earn it. We feel good.”

The Varejao factor 04.29.10 at 5:22 pm ET
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WALTHAM – In three games against the Celtics this season, Anderson Varejao averaged 13 points, nine rebounds ( with half of them coming on the offensive glass) and about a hundred different migraines. His energy seemed to overwhelm the Celtics and he was a huge key in Cleveland’s 20-point win over the Celtics at the Garden.

Doc Rivers likened him to Joakim Noah and his own player, Glen Davis, allowing for the obvious difference in height.

“They’€™re only good because they play hard with a high basketball IQ,” Rivers said. “I can give you a bunch of guys who can play hard but don’€™t think. They do it intelligently. That’€™s what made Dennis Rodman so good because his IQ on the floor was ridiculous. Varejao’€™s just a smart, crafty, hard-playing 7-footer.”

Davis will play a large role in this series. The Celtics are counting on him and Rasheed Wallace to match Varejao’s energy off the bench as well as the other big men options the Cavs can throw at the Celtics.

“Our bench has to play well,” Rivers said. “It doesn’€™t have to be all of them. The combination of Baby and Rasheed, we need one of them and we would prefer two. They have to play well. We need somebody to match Varejao’€™s energy. The two games they won he was the best player. He dominated those games with his energy and his effort.”

Varejao has also been known as an irritant, which is part of his job. He’s the kind of player only the hometown fans can love, even though all give him grudging respect. Davis is also an emotional player, but Rivers doesn’t think that will be an issue, at least not for him.

“I’€™m not worried about him getting under Baby’€™s skin,” Rivers said. “I am more concerned about the Kevin [Garnett's]  and the Rasheed’€™s because that’€™s what he wants to do. Baby’€™s pretty good with that. Baby will just keep competing back. Baby actually has the ability to get under people’€™s skin himself. The other guys, they know it. Listen, if I’€™m Varejao and I can get under their skin, I’€™m going to try.”

Read More: Anderson Varejao, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace,
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