|Rondo: ‘We’re starting to put it together’||03.25.10 at 12:05 am ET|
Echoing the thoughts of his general manager Danny Ainge on WEEI earlier in the day, Rajon Rondo can feel things finally start to come together for the Celtics.
And the timing couldn’t be any better.
While Paul Pierce led the team with 27 points, it was Rondo who was the floor general with his seventh career triple-double – fourth in the regular season – in Boston’s 113-99 win over the talented Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“We’re starting to put it together. We had a little hiccup at Utah but we’ve done a pretty good job. We’re getting better each game. We’re not going to play perfect every game. We’re not going to win every game from here on out probably but at the end of the day, as long as we continue to get better and work toward our goal, we’ll be fine.
“We haven’t blown as many leads as we did early on in the season so we’re getting better.”
Rondo had 11 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in helping the Celtics hold off Denver and clinch a playoff spot in the East.
“We got to the line tonight,” Rondo said. “Myself, I was trying to be aggressive early. I thought they had a problem getting matched up with their man so I tried to push myself or advance the ball with the pass and Paul did as well. He started off the game great, got to the line, got a couple of easy layups and got his rhythm.”
As for avenging the loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Feb. 21, Rondo said it was no big deal.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s just another game.”
Perhaps the Celtics showed why they are peaking at the right time when the game got close at the end of the third quarter. Earlier in the season, when J.R. Smith’s desperation 3-pointer went through the hoop, the collective shoulders of the Celtics might have sagged.
But not on this night. When the Celtics lead was cut to 87-80 at the end of the third, Nate Robinson sank a three himself to start the fourth and the Celtics steadily built their lead back up through the teens, eventually putting the game away.
“They made a run but that’s part of the game,” Rondo said. “We knew in the second half they would make a run so during halftime we just tried to stick together. We told ourselves we have to just handle adversity better. When teams do make a run, let’s not get down or bicker amongst each other. Let’s stick together and make a run ourselves.”
The Celtics won their fourth straight at home for the first time this season and now stand 22-12 at home after losing just six at home last year.
“Whether it’s home or away, it’s about time for us to get some momentum,” Rondo said, before admitting, “It might be too late for that. We feel we’re a team where it should be that way but we’ve lost a lot of games here. Twelve and we lost only six last year but at the end of the day, the playoffs are a totally different atmosphere so we’ll be ready.”
|Rondo getting the point of Paul and KG||03.17.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
Rondo knows if Pierce and Garnett play like they did on Wednesday, whether it’s the lowly Knicks or the mighty Cavs, the Celtics become a whole different beast.
Even with two early fouls, Pierce finished with 29 points and Garnett added 22. Most impressive were the open looks Rondo was getting the pair – one major reason Pierce made 11 of his 17 shots and Garnett 9-of-his-11.
‘I do [take pride in setting up],” Rondo said. “You know you can’t leave out Ray [Allen]. He’s a jump shooter, so you got to get them looks early. Paul and Kevin create their shots anytime on the court. Get them looks and transitions I think is key. Get them easy looks an going to the free throw lines, and aggressive. I think that both of those guys, talking to Paul and Kevin early on in the game.’
After the game, Rivers said it was Rondo who stepped up his scoring when he could, getting to the basket and taking more open shots.
That’s all changed now and Rondo said he is more than happy to revert to just running the show and getting the team’s scorers involved.
‘When I feel like I need to score,” Rondo explained, “I try and do it but otherwise, you know we are rolling. Take shots that’s fine with me, as long as we win. Getting assists better for me than scoring.
‘First and for most. Everybody is back by now, and guys are playing well. Paul played well tonight. You we are winning so be it, regardless of the outcome of how many shots I take, as long as we win.’
|How close is that corner?||03.14.10 at 11:03 pm ET|
The Celtics repeatedly have mentioned ‘turning a corner’ to get back on a winning track. But with 17 games left in the regular season, how far away is that corner?
‘I don’t know, maybe 17 blocks,’ Rajon Rondo guesstimated on Friday. ‘It should be the same zip code.’
Doc Rivers said he has felt his team getting closer, including at times during Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers. ‘I told our guys, it’s frustrating for me because I could see in a lot of ways how close we are to breaking out and to being really good,’ he told reporters after the game. But the Celtics trailed the Cavs by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter and lost for the third time in four games.
The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 contests, a stretch that included a three-game winning streak and a pair of two-game skids. Ray Allen understands the regular season can be a series of ups and downs, the reason why he thinks that corner isn’t that distant.
‘I live on an island. I don’t have blocks or anything in the country,’ Ray Allen said. ‘Any time you have to turn a corner, the corner is a block away. It’s just a block away because once you do something well, you feel like you’ve turned a corner. So it’s never that far away. Just like when you’re good, you’re just teeter-tottering on being bad, vice versa.’
|Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Wizards||03.07.10 at 10:00 pm ET|
If the Celtics are going to take back this game, they have just 12 more minutes to do so. They trail 66-62 after three quarters.
The C’s struggled to piece together a total team effort coming out of halftime. Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins were the only players to score for the first 5:49 of the quarter. The C’s also went scoreless during a 3:45 stretch in which the Wizards pushed their lead up to 11 points.
Ray Allen gave the Celtics a spark midway through the quarter with a pair of 3s. Then it was Rajon Rondo’s turn. He scored seven points two minutes to bring the Celtics back within four.
The Celtics have momentum heading into the fourth, but they still have to dig themselves out of a deficit. They are 7-14 when trailing after three quarters.
|Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. 76ers||03.05.10 at 8:50 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo was quiet in the first half. But once he finally scored in the third, he didn’t stop. Rondo scored 14 points in just over eight minutes. He and Kevin Garnett combined for all but six of the Celtics points in the quarter.
The Celtics have their largest lead, 74-67, going into the final 12 minutes. They did not commit a single turnover in the third. Garnett and Ray Allen are tied with a game-high 16 points. Elton Brand still leads the 76ers with 15 points.
The C’s are 31-7 this season when leading or tied after three quarters.
|Nate’s learning curve||03.01.10 at 2:48 pm ET|
The initial fanfare over Nate Robinson’s arrival in Boston has simmered down and now the newest Celtic is simply trying to dig in and digest everything, especially the team’s defensive scheme.
“It’s getting there,” Robinson said. “I’m trying to figure out this defensive playbook that’s pretty crazy. The offense is going to come easy. For me and Marcus [Landry] everything is coming at us fast. It’s like in baseball, they put you other and say, ‘Hit a 100 miles an hour fastball.’ It’s like, How do I do that? You just got to keep playing and keep working.”
While Robinson adjusts to Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, with its emphasis on fighting over screens, help defense and constant communication, Doc Rivers had tried to help Robinson feel more comfortable offensively by incorporating a handful of plays from Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks offense.
“It’s kind of cool, because I’ve got to be out there trying to coach it,” Robinson said. “They like the offense that we showed them and we’re trying to run with it. I know when I’m in I’m going to be calling that play 99.9 percent of the time. I’m going to be real comfortable with that.”
Rivers has also utilized Robinson in a backcourt tandem with Rajon Rondo at times. That is something of a league-wide trend to have teams play two quick point guards together to take advantage of the NBA’s rules changes outlawing hand-checks on the perimeter.
It’s an intriguing lineup, but Rivers isn’t quite sold on it yet because of the size aspect, but in limited bursts a Rondo-Robinson backcourt could be a game-changer once both players get comfortable. “It’s a good combination,” Rivers said. “It’s not one I love because it makes us really small, obviously.”
Robinson himself noted that he is treading lightly. “You can’t really rush things like this.”
Like everything else with the Celtics these days, it’s just going to take time for them to get things right.
|LeBron: Rondo has made ‘The Board’||02.26.10 at 2:39 pm ET|
Before every game, NBA coaches and their assistants place the names of players to contain on a board as part of the game plan.
But it’s obvious now that they need to add a fourth name: Rajon Rondo.
He showed why in the first quarter on Thursday night, with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and six assists as the Celtics raced out to a 31-21 lead. James stopped short of saying Rondo has become the most important Celtic but not by much.
“I don’t know if I can say that,” James began. “When you scout for Boston, there are certain guys that make that board before the game, these type of guys you have to stop and he’s one of those guys.
“First couple of years here in Boston, he wasn’t on that board. He was fast point guard, you have to get back but other than that you didn’t talk about him, you didn’t talk about Rondo.”
[Click here to hear LeBron talk about Rondo.]
Rondo earned his first All-Star berth this winter and players like King James have taken note.
“Last year, he made a name for himself and he makes that board when you’re talking about, ‘This is what we’re doing again Paul, this is what we’re doing against Ray and this is what we’re doing against KG and this is what we’re doing against Rondo.’ When you make that board, you’re definitely a very good player.”
As for whether Rondo can get the Celtics back in gear and challenge the 45-14 Cavaliers, that remains to be seen. But James isn’t taking the Celtics lightly, even after a 20-point win on Thursday at TD Garden.
“They’re a very good team,” James said. “No one doubts Boston. No one who ever comes into this building or plays Boston on the road doubts that team. They have too many weapons, they’re too experienced. They have a good coach, a good coaching staff. No one ever doubts them and you better play well or they can embarrass you.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Austin Ainge Offers Window to C's Pre-Draft Process
- Trade Possibilities for C's with Draft Approaching
- Latest Buzz Surrounding Jamal Crawford, Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics'...
- Latest NBA Trade Rumors, Buzz
- Ranking Celtics' Biggest NBA Draft Needs
- Buzz Surrounding Ty Lawson, Celtics Draft Plans and More
- Realistic Targets for Celtics to Chase During Offseason