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C’s need more from Rondo 06.13.10 at 7:42 pm ET
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Through the first four games of the NBA finals Rajon Rondo has been solid, yet hardly spectacular, save for a triple-double in Game 2. Rondo played only 31 minutes in Game 4, shooting 5-for-15 and finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The key to Rondo’s effectiveness is defensive rebounding and the Celtics have been up and down in that regard. The Lakers have also done a better job of getting back in transition since Rondo was able to turn them inside out in the second game.

But there is a concern that Rondo’s inability to make free throws combined with the Lakers size inside has taken away some of his aggressiveness.

“He kind of got back to it in the second half of Game 4,” Doc Rivers said. “He missed some layups. I thought he hung his head a little bit, and that happens. You know, I still think we forget how young he is. So, he still has some growing to do.”

Maybe so, but the time for growth has passed, at least this season. The Celtics need Rondo to play at an All-Star level because the Lakers don’t have an obvious counter for him. If Rondo and Ray Allen can get going in the same game, as they did in Game 2, it would force Phil Jackson to make a choice between Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and that plays heavily into the Celtics advantage.

Read More: Rajon Rondo,
Pierce not concerned with offensive struggles 06.07.10 at 1:38 am ET
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LOS ANGELES — Paul Pierce isn’t worried.

In spite of shooting 2-for-11  in Game 2 of the NBA finals, the Celtics captain was not concerned.

He knows he can perform better, but he doesn’t have to force his shot when his teammates are getting it done on the offensive end.

“I think I struggled offensively, I think I rushed a lot,” Pierce said following the Celtics Game 2 win over the Lakers. “I don’t think it was too much about what Ron (Artest) did (defensively). I had about three or four open shots off the pick-and-roll that guys got me open that I missed. I loved the looks I got tonight. I’m happy with that, but at the same time I’m not going to force the issue on my offense.”

Pierce finished the game with 10 points, 14 less than in Game 1. But it’s how he made up for it that matters. He grabbed four rebounds and held Artest to just six points off of 1-for-10 shooting. Pierce considers himself to be a versatile player, not just a scorer, and he utilized those skills to help the Celtics get the win.

“I don’t have a big burden for me offensively on my team as Kobe (Bryant) does,” he said. “So when I’m not out here making buckets I’m out there trying to rebound, defend, make plays for other guys. Obviously Ray was the catalyst tonight along with Rajon (Rondo), so I tried to do other things.”

Read More: Celtics, Lakers, NBA Finals, Paul Pierce
Celtics, Lakers look ahead to Game 2 06.05.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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EL SEGUNDO — The Celtics and Lakers held court with the media on Saturday as they looked ahead to Game 2.  There have been common themes discussed following the C’s Game 1 loss — energy, rebounding, stopping Kobe Bryant, among others.

Over the past few days the players have heard the same questions posed in different ways. Many view it as part of being in the finals. Others have found a type of motivation in the repetition.

“I think it helps us a lot because you kind of get tired about hearing about the same things,” said Kendrick Perkins. “So you want to go out there and correct it so after Game 2 you won’t have to hear about it anymore.”

Here are a few soundbites from Saturday’s practice:

Helping Rondo be Rondo: As the point guard, it’s Rajon Rondo’s job to get his teammate the ball. At the same time, the Celtics have to do a better job of setting him up for success as well. The Celtics lack of defensive stops in Game 1 prevented Rondo from getting into transition often, something they look to improve in Game 2.

“When you don’t get stops, that means he’s taking the ball out every time and it doesn’t allow Rondo to get out there and use his speed in transition for fastbreaks,” said Paul Pierce. “Every time they got stops, rebounds was another big Achilles heel for us. So it’s important to do a better job on rebounds after each shot, getting the ball in his hands so his speed and play-making ability can become a factor in game number two. So we’ve got to make a concentrated effort at doing a better job at that.”

Gasol reacts to Garnett comments: On Friday, Pau Gasol’s comparison of Kevin Garnett from 2008 to 2010 became a media whirlwind when a small fraction of his comments were magnified. Gasol commented, “On Kevin’s part, he’s also lost some explosiveness. He’s more of a jump shooter now,” before adding that he considers Garnett to be a “terrific player” who brings everything he has to the court.

Gasol reacted to the buzz following Lakers practice. When asked if he was surprised that his comment had been portrayed as derogatory, he responded, “To an extent. To an extent. I understand media try to create situations for whatever reason, create attraction. But again, sometimes I extend my answers too long. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. I should be shorter with my answers and don’t give away just anything so it can’t be manipulated that way and used.”

The Celtics didn’t get worked up over Gasol’s comments, though. Rondo said losing Game 1 was motivation enough for the C’s in itself.

Said Kendrick Perkins, “I say speak your mind. Sometimes it livens up the series a little bit. So I say speak your mind. You never know who you might make mad when you say something crazy, so you never know. Everybody’s watching.”

Celtics know what they’re playing for: Kevin Garnett is no stranger to screaming, yelling, and getting in his teammates’ faces on the court to pump them up. But at this point in the season, Garnett says that isn’t necessary.

“I think in this situation you don’t have to do any of that,” he said. “I think we’re all kind of distasteful at this time, knowing what’s at stake and it being the finals. No one here has to come out and say a heroic speech or get in anyone’s face. It’s all self-explanatory to this point. Everyone is motivated. Everyone knows we’re motivated. Guys on the team are looking at themselves in the mirror and I’m no different from that.”

Read More: Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant
Lakers key to defending Rondo 06.04.10 at 5:48 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — With a new series upon us, we have yet another defensive gameplan geared to stopping Rajon Rondo.

The obvious opening gambit for the Lakers is assigning Kobe Bryant the task of guarding Rondo. Bryant is bigger than Rondo and will play off him to try to prevent him from getting to the paint. That is nothing new, of course. The Heat did it with Dwyane Wade. The Cavs did it with Anthony Parker and LeBron James.

But Rondo has said that he never concerns himself with the first defender. He always has his eye on the second wave and the Laker big men have a plan, as well.

“What happens is, he’s the kind of guy who waits for the bigs to cut and then he drops passes off to them,” Andrew Bynum said. “We’re trying to make him finish, and wait until he goes to shoot the ball instead of committing to him earlier. It gets their team going when KG gets dunks, when [Kendrick] Perkins gets dunks and screams and all that. We just want to eliminate all of that.”

The Lakers have faced a gauntlet of elite point guards in the playoffs, including Utah’s Deron Williams and Phoenix’s Steve Nash, but it was their first round opponent who provided the best test case.

“Russell Westbrook really got us prepared because he’s going to take it right to you,” Bynum said. “He’s athletic enough that he’ll jump over you.”

Rondo may not have quite the straight-forward athleticism that Westbrook has, but he has mastered the art of angles and has proven adept at getting off shots and using the glass. He noted that Pau Gasol was able to block two of his shot attempts and that he’ll have to come up with a counter move, but he insisted that it’s really all on him to make the right decisions.

“I think I drew their bigs a couple of times and got Perk to the free throw line,” Rondo said. “But other than that, it’s my read really. It’s nothing that [an opposing] big can do or sense. It’s all on me, my judgment, knowing how to play the game.”

The other obvious adjustment for Rondo and the Celtics is getting out in transition. They had only five fast-break points in six chances and that has to do with defensive rebounding and coming up with loose-ball rebounds.

“We had a film clip with all the 50-50 plays, and I don’t think we got any of them,” Rondo said. “They got all the loose balls. They dove on the floor first. They were the more aggressive team.”

That has to change in Game 2 or Rondo will be once again stuck in low gear with an entire defense geared to stop him.

Read More: Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo,
KG vs. Gasol: It’s on (kind of) at 5:16 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — Pau Gasol was asked a lot of questions about Kevin Garnett on the day after he scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds in the Lakers Game 1 victory in the NBA finals. Gasol talked about how he has grown over the years and how playing Garnett was a big challenge when he was in Memphis and Garnett was in Minnesota.

Then he said this: “On Kevin’s part, he’s also lost some explosiveness. He’s more of a jump shooter now.” Gasol went on to say how Garnett is still a “terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he’s going to bring everything he’s got. You can count on that.”

Only the first part of the quote was relayed to Garnett who responded, “I have no comment for his comments.”

Pressed further, Garnett said, “I’m not getting caught up in what Pau’s talking about. I’m not going to play these games. I’m going to stick to my guns, continue to make the proper adjustments and move on. I’m not into this bull [expletive] that’s going on, you know what I mean? That’s it.”

So, we have our first media-driven controversy of the finals. Fair or unfair, and the set-up was more than a little bit dishonest, Garnett will have to bring more to the table defensively against Gasol in Game 2. He knows that, as does everyone else, but count on this being a major plot point over the next 48 hours.

For example, Rajon Rondo was asked about the Gasol’s comments, again without context, and he just grinned. “Every man is entitled to this opinion,” Rondo said. “You know, Kevin is fine. It’s just one game. We’ll see in Game 2.”

Asked how this would affect Garnett, Rondo said, “I just can’t wait. I didn’t know [Gasol] said that, but I’ll be excited to see how it goes in Game 2.”

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo,
Three Things That Went Wrong And Right in Game 1 at 12:00 am ET
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The Lakers took a 1-0 lead in the 2010 NBA finals after a 102-89 win over the Celtics. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 27 points, while Pau Gasol finished with 23. The Celtics were topped by Paul Pierce with 24 points. Game 2 — a must win for the Celtics? — is Sunday night.

Three Things That Went Wrong

Gasol dominates Garnett: Guess Gasol is tougher than he was in 2008. He attacked Kevin Garnett from the start on Thursday night, finishing Game 1 with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Gasol did whatever he wanted in the post with Garnett defending (Rasheed Wallace was actually more effective on Gasol) and wasn’t afraid to get physical while guarding KG. Here’s all you need to know about Garnett’s performance in Game 1: 35 minutes, four rebounds and two FT attempts in a strangely passive performance. The defining moment of Game 1 will be Garnett unable to dunk at 91-78 with six minutes left. Again, Garnett doesn’t need to play Gasol to a push in this series but he can’t be embarrassed as he was in Game 1.

Destroyed on the Glass: Fear No. 1 for most Celtics fans heading into Game 1 was the size of the Lakers (maybe 1A, assuming that Kobe always tops the chart). And it was justified, as the Gasol/Andrew Bynum duo helped the Lakers control play underneath. At halftime LA had a 23-15 edge on the boards, a 28-18 lead in points in the paint and a 10-0 shutout in second-chance points. And the Celtics couldn’t adjust, grabbing just two rebounds in the the third quarter.

Foul Trouble Slows Down Ray: With Kobe Bryant guarding Rajon Rondo early on, it appeared that Ray Allen would be able to do some serious damage coming off screens with the soon-to-be-36-year-old Derek Fisher defending. But Allen could never get going, as he fell into early foul problems while trying to guard Bryant. A clearly frustrated Allen finished Game 1 with just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting (and no 3-pointers).

Three Things That Went Right

Rasheed Came To Play: Wallace was terrific in the second quarter, scoring seven points while playing excellent defense vs. Gasol. You could make the case that no Celtics player matched the intensity brought by Wallace on Thursday. If Garnett struggles again in Game 2 early it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Doc Rivers goes to Wallace.

Rondo Looks Healthy: It wasn’t Rondo’s best game (13 points, six rebounds and eight assists) but he didn’t appear to be slowed down by the nagging injuries that hurt him at times vs. the Magic.

Tony Allen and Pierce Defending Kobe: Bryant was the game’s high scorer (30 points), but did most of his work against Ray Allen in Game 1. He didn’t make a shot with Pierce defending (0-for-6) and Tony Allen also had some nice moments guarding Kobe. Another Doc test for Game 2 is to see how much we’ll see Pierce on Bryant.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, NBA Finals
Finals have a different feeling 06.03.10 at 8:58 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES -  It has only been two years since the Celtics suited up for Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals. The majority of the faces are the same, but what about the feeling?

“I wasn’t really nervous Game 1 of the Finals. I’m not really nervous right now,“ said Rajon Rondo. “It’s kind of hard to tell right now until the lights actually go on and there’s two minutes left ticking down. Right now it’s no big deal, it’s the same thing.”

The emotions are different this time around. In 2008, the Celtics were suddenly thrust from the lottery to the finals after acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. This season, they know what it takes to win it all and are trying to recreate the success they achieved two years earlier.

“I think we’re more poised than we were last time. I think that’s the biggest difference. I don’t think the stage is as big a deal as the game plan. We’re more focused on the game plan than the finals,” said Brian Scalabrine.

“It’s the second time around, we’ve been there. We’ve done it before and there’s nothing really that surprises you. We know it’s going to be crowded out there, we know media day is going to be crazy, we didn’t know any of that. The intensity of this team in ’08 was different. It was a more high-strung team, we’re much more laidback. That’s not a bad thing. We can compartmentalize better than we did in ’08.”

Doc Rivers is prepared either way.

“In some ways we have the same starters, but the bench is completely different,” he said. “For some of the guys, this is their first time around. So you have to kind of watch their emotions. And even some of the guys who were on the bench last year, the last time when they were not in the rotation as much. Then in a lot of ways, it’s their first time. … We’ve got a veteran group, so we know what we’re in store for.”

Read More: Brian Scalabrine, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Lakers
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