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Rondo talks winning in cover story 04.08.10 at 11:17 pm ET
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This month Rajon Rondo is featured on the cover of Dime Magazine, his first national cover story. Rondo discusses his competitive nature, dedication to winning, and drive to be the best. Check out a video from the photo shoot and excerpts from the article:

On staying hungry: “After I won the first ring, I just wanted to get another one. Stay hungry and never settle. Most people don’t get to experience that feeling, so I want to try and feel that way again. Especially with the team that we have, most people can’t say that they can compete each year for a ring, and for the last three years, we’ve been able to contend. Might as well seize the opportunity while I can.”

On inspiring work ethics: “Now, KG. Actually, KG and Ray. They’re future Hall of Famers. And right now as we speak, you know they’re down there working out. They never settle, so why should I? I’ve accomplished nowhere near what they’ve accomplished. They’re perennial All-Stars. That’s one of my goals as I continue getting better.”

On being the best: “What makes me want to keep getting better is that I just love being the best. I know other point guards like Deron Williams and Chris Paul aren’t settling; Steve Nash continues to get better as he gets older. I’m in love with trying to be the best person I can be, the best player on the court, the best point guard in the league.”

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Injuries could impact Eastern Conference standings 04.07.10 at 12:47 am ET
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Andrew Bogut’s gruesome arm injury was the first of many to hit the Eastern Conference over the last few days. Joe Johnson will miss at least two games with a sprained thumb and Chris Bosh’s status is unclear after suffering a facial fracture on Tuesday against the Cavaliers.

With just over a week left in the regular season, these injuries could impact playoff seedings, including that of the Celtics.

Aside from the Washington Wizards, whom the C’s will play on Friday, their remaining competitors are vying for postseason positions. Johnson’s injury opens the window of opportunity for the Celtics to close in on the third seed (currently held by the Hawks), but their opponents will be trying to secure their own place in the playoffs as well.

Toronto Raptors (currently 8th)
Wednesday, April 7 @ Toronto

The Raptors were dealt a devastating blow on Tuesday when Bosh suffered an unintentional elbow to the face from Antawn Jamison. According to reports, Bosh will remain in Cleveland overnight. His status is unknown.

Milwaukee Bucks (currently 5th)

Saturday, April 10 @ Milwaukee
Wednesday, April 14 @ Boston

The Bucks posed problems for the Celtics when healthy, and now this team is on a mission without Bogut. The young squad still has plenty of weapons and will challenge the Celtics even if they don’t have their big man in the middle.

Chicago Bulls (currently one game out of 8th)

Tuesday, April 13 @ Chicago

If there is any team with something to play for right now, it is the Bulls. They were already edging toward the eighth spot. Now the injury of Bosh has created an opportunity for them to grab it if they can win enough games down the stretch.

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James took lessons learned from battles with Pierce 04.04.10 at 11:58 pm ET
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The matchup between Paul Pierce and LeBron James is one of the most competitive battles in the NBA. But before James was dominating the scoreboard, he was trying to learn from his veteran counterpart.

“When I first came into the league, he was a seasoned vet and I was a rookie just trying to learn the curve and things like that,” James said prior to the Celtics 117-113 win over the Cavaliers. “Over the years, he’s still been an All-Star, he’s still been competitive. I’m just trying to develop my game to be one of the best three’s (small forwards) in the league, to be on Paul Pierce’s level and all these other guys‘ level.”

On Sunday, James outscored Pierce, 42-16 (20 of his points came in the fourth quarter alone). It’s a far cry from their first regular-season matchup seven years ago. On Nov. 13, 2003, James — as a rookie — scored 10 points in a 91-82 loss to the Celtics. In that one, Pierce, who was entering his sixth season, led the C’s with 19 points.

“You learn, the game itself teaches you game after game after game,” James said. “But you learn when you go against the best, you see why they are considered the best at that time or still now because of the work they put into it. They never took a night off.”

James is averaging 29.9 points this season (30.6 in his last five contests) and has scored more than 20 points in all but one game since the All-Star Break. He wrapped up his regular season matchup with the Celtics averaging 36.5 points in four games.

“I’ve been able to be recognized as one of the best three’s that we have in this league,” James added, “So it’s always fun to go against the best guys in the league, and Paul continues to be that since I was a rookie.”

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First half: Celtics – Cavs at 2:10 pm ET
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The Celtics jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first two minutes in never trailed in the first quarter. It was Ray Allen — not LeBron James — who led all players with 10 points. James and Mo Williams were right behind him with eight points apiece for the Cavs. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the first quarter.

Doc Rivers turned to his bench when Rajon Rondo picked up two early fouls. First one in: Tony Allen, who is averaging 9.25 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games. Interesting move as this left the unit without a true point guard. That didn’t halt the Celtics, though, as they outscored the Cavs, 33-24, after the first 12 minutes.

The Celtics continued to build their lead in the second quarter. They were up, 50-40, with 3:23 left before back-to-back fouls on Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett allowed the Cavs to chip away at the deficit. They went on a 7-2 run to get back within five. But the Celtics answered with a 5-0 run of their own, propelled by Garnett and Paul Pierce. Rondo drained a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Celtics a 64-49 halftime lead.

Williams leads all players with 15 points. James has 10. Rondo and Ray Allen scored 12 each. The Celtics are 37-17 when leading or tied at the half.

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Celtics struggle with Allen’s unexpected absence on the court 04.03.10 at 12:05 am ET
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The Celtics have played without the Big Three this season. Kevin Garnett missed 10 games with a hyperextended knee, Pierce was sidelined for another 10 games with a variety of knee, foot, and thumb ailments, and Ray Allen sat out a night with back spasms.

But it is perhaps more challenging when one of these players is unexpectedly kept off the court. On Friday, the Celtics intended on having Allen for four quarters against the Rockets. Instead, foul trouble allowed him to play just 16 minutes. He picked up two fouls in the first quarter alone and had five going into the fourth. With 2:13 left in regulation and the Celtics up, 104-101, Allen fouled out for the first time all season.

The Celtics missed their sharpshooter in a loss decided by just five points, 119-114,  in overtime.

“Ray was in foul trouble the entire game,” said Doc Rivers. “That hurt us down the stretch, clearly, because it took away so many options and it took away space.”

The outcome could have been different if the Celtics hit free throws, Garnett pointed out. The C’s shot just 65 percent from the line (24-for-37) while the Rockets were a consistent 89.3 percent (25-for-28). Allen, the team’s best free throw shooter at 90.6 percent on the season, made it to the line just once. Because of foul trouble, he was forced to watch his team struggle from the same place he has had so much success.

“Any time you miss Paul or Ray or anybody who is in our starting five, it’s a big blow to us,” said Garnett. “Obviously free throws were a big key tonight. If we make or we only miss about four or five of them, we’d win the game by a pretty decent margin. But every game it’s going to be something. But any time you lose a big piece of your offense or anyone in your starting lineup, it’s a big blow.

“Not having Ray in the game, not just for free throw purposes but for offensive attention, he draws a lot of attention on offense. It gets a lot of guys easy shots and different looks and stuff. And with him not in there was big.”

The Celtics will look forward to having Allen, who is averaging 15.9 points per game, back on the court when they face the Cavaliers on Sunday.

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Halftime: Celtics – Rockets 04.02.10 at 8:41 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo made Celtics history less than five minutes into the game when he broke Bob Cousy’s 50-year-old single season assist record. Rondo dished his 716th dime of the season, an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett, to set the mark. (Earlier in the season, Rondo passed Rick Fox for the franchise mark in single-season steals.)

But back to the game. The Celtics gave up an early 11-point lead to trail the Rockets 32-30 after the first quarter. The Rockets closed the quarter on a 19-6 run, led by eight points in less than six minutes from Kyle Lowry. Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, and Aaron Brooks also scored eight in the quarter. The Celtics outshot the Rockets, 59 percent to 50 percent, but were outrebounded, 12-7.

The C’s trailed in the second quarter before Rondo sparked a comeback. Rondo leapt for a defensive rebound and threw an outlet pass as he lost his balance, which Pierce connected for a lay-in. On the next possession, he set Perkins up for a bucket. The C’s took the lead back on a dunk by Tony Allen. The Rockets fought back, though, and are up 57-53 at halftime.

Brooks leads all players with 17 points. Pierce has 14 for the Celtics. Rondo has a game-high seven assists.

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Rondo eyes matchup with Westbrook 03.31.10 at 12:36 am ET
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For the past four years, Rajon Rondo has been catching the eyes of veteran point guards around the league as he developed into an All-Star. Now there is another up-and-coming player who has caught his attention.

Rondo expects to run into Westbrook (r) throughout his career

Rajon Rondo expects to run into Russell Westbrook (0) throughout his career. (AP)

Rondo has been impressed by the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.

“He’s a mature guy,“ Rondo said. “He’s running the show, he’s getting his main guy the ball, and at times he knows when to attack.”

In just his second season in the NBA, Westbrook is averaging over 16 points and ranks eighth in the league with 7.9 assists per game. (Rondo is fourth with 9.8 apg.) Many of those have been dished to teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s second-leading scorer.

Not only is Westbrook moving the ball, he also is helping his team win. The young Thunder squad currently holds the sixth seed in the Western Conference and has just two less wins than the Celtics this season.

On Wednesday, the C’s will look to push that differential up to three wins when they face the Thunder at TD Garden. Rondo knows he will have to buckle down on defense to stop Westbrook. Both players scored 15 points in their first meeting of the season (a Celtics win) in December.

“[I have to] try to keep him in front of me, keep him out of transition,“ Rondo said. “He loves to attack in transition, so just try to keep between him and the basket.”

Rondo understands how to stop Westbrook for a reason. Prior to the his first All-Star appearance, Rondo pointed out Westbrook as the player in the Rookie-Sophomore game who reminds him most of himself. He drew similarities between their quickness and aggressiveness with the ball.

If it were up to Rondo, Westbrook would have been joining him on the court in Dallas.

“I think he could’ve gotten into the All-Star Game this year too as well,” Rondo said. “Hopefully he’ll make it next year. He got overlooked, but he’s definitely a good player.”

Even though Rondo and Westbrook are only in their early 20s, Rondo believes this matchup has the potential to become one to watch over the next few seasons.

“You know you’ll be going against him for hopefully another six or seven years,” he said.

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