|Inside the Rondo adjustment||05.09.10 at 3:04 pm ET|
In Game 3 the Cavaliers made a simple, but effective adjustment on Rajon Rondo by having Anthony Parker pick him up full court. The move slowed down the Celtics offense just enough to force them into a number of forced perimeter jump shots. Rondo made only three of his first nine shots in the first quarter and six of those were from outside the paint.
The Cavs jumped out to a 36-17 lead and never looked back.
“Rondo’s playing major minutes,” Parker said. “He’s the guy that makes them go. We felt like if we could just make him work. He’s so quick and so talented that he can get where he has to go. So if you just make him work a little bit more. The mentality of our team is one that puts us in an aggressive mindset and that’s the kind of mindset we had for four quarters in the last game.”
The Cavs haven’t come up with anything special for Paul Pierce. They seem content to see if Kevin Garnett can beat them in the post. All of their defensive attention and focus has been on Rondo, and for good reason.
“He does so much,” Parker said. “He’s the steals leader. He’s a great rebounder for a guard. He runs the team and he’s extremely capable of finishing in the paint with all kinds of awkward shots. He’s continued to improve since he’s come into the league.”
What made the move so intriguing is that it came from Parker and a handful of other players and assistants. Cavs coach Mike Brown trusts the people around him to offer insights and suggestions. While the final decision rests with him, he is confident and secure enough to listen. That’s unusual in the NBA, especially for a coach who probably has more pressure on him than any of his peers in the playoffs.
“That’s the thing that I give him so much credit for,” Parker said. “In this environment, coaching is so competitive and the tendency is to have your hands on everything. I give him so much credit because he delegates so much authority, but honestly the final decision still rests with him.”
And so does the criticism.
“He still does it and I think he does it effectively,” Parker said. “He makes everybody feel like they’re a part of this. The success of it is I think you can get your players to buy into the system and buy into what you’re doing it will be more effective.”
Brown has good reason to trust Parker who has banged around Europe and the NBA and brings experience and smarts to his role.
“AP’s extremely intelligent,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coaching, whether it’s at this level or the collegiate level, wherever he wants to. He’s a great character guy, he has patience and he’s been there, done that in a lot of different situations. His IQ for the game of basketball is pretty high.”
The Celtics have downplayed the adjustment and Rondo did do a good job of dealing with the defense and remaining a threat. He finished with 18 points and eight assists and it’s a measure of how far he’s come that his stat line was considered a sub-par game.
Parker has something to do with it as well. He has played solid defense in this series and remained a threat shooting corner 3-pointers.
“He brings length to the team and great shooting,” Brown said. “He’s not necessarily a physical defensive presence like a Bruce Bowen, but he has a defensive presence because he’ll bust his behind on every play. It’s a better team with him out on the floor.”
The game within the game in this series for the Celtics offensively starts with Rondo. He had controlled the pace and play in the first two games. The Cavs found a way to slow him in Game 3 and now it’s on him to provide the counter.
|Perkins: ‘Without [Rondo], we’d be dead’||05.08.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Between Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett alone, it has never been easy to pinpoint the best player on the Celtics. Throw the development of Rajon Rondo into the mix this season, and the task is even tougher.
It’s easy, though, for Kendrick Perkins. Not only does he consider Rondo to be the C’s top player, he also considers him their lifeline.
‘I think right now, he’s the best player on our team,’ Perkins told WEEI.com following practice on Saturday. ‘Without Rondo, nothing goes. Pretty much we’ve got to play him the whole game because he just runs the whole team. Without him, we’d be dead.’
Rondo is playing a team-high 41 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. His numbers have consistently improved from the regular season throughout the playoffs. In the first three games against the Cavs, he leads with team with 19.3 points and 13.0 assists, more than five points and three assists better than the regular season. He is also shooting 56.8 percent from the field and averaging 5.0 rebounds, more boards than Allen and Pierce.
‘I think he stepped up,’ said Perkins. ‘He’s been more focused than ever, in my opinion, and he’s been doing a great job of leading us.’
|Rondo’s honor: All defense||05.05.10 at 4:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo set a goal of making the NBA’s All Defense First Team and he was rewarded by the league Wednesday. Rondo earned the second most votes, both first place and overall, behind Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.
“It strokes my ego,” he joked after the team’s practice Wednesday. “It’s something I’ve worked for since I’ve come into the league. One of my goals this year was to make the first team.”
Rondo deflected credit to his teammates who posted the league’s fifth best defensive efficiency rating (a step down from previous seasons).
“Having four guys behind you makes you look a lot better,” Rondo said. “When I get beat on the dribble I got Perk and Kevin [Garnett] blocking those shots.”
Rondo led the league in steals with 189 [and set a new franchise record in the process], but those steals have sometimes been a point of contention to those who felt that he gambled too much. The Celtics feel that he has curbed those tendencies and has played more solid on the ball defense this season.
“He deserves it,” Doc Rivers said. “He works at it. It’s a great honor. When you’re on the first team in anything it’s a hell of an honor.”
Rondo’s defense was a key component in the Celtics first round series win over the Heat. When he was able to pressure full court, Miami had major trouble getting into its offense. The key word for him is disruptive because of his steals and also his deflections.
The Celtics have had to rely on him in their series with the Cavs even more. He has played 87 of the available 96 minutes in the first two games and the Celtics have been +19 when he’s in the game and -9 when he’s been out. Tony Allen has been the nominal point guard in Rondo’s absence, but the Celtics have had Ray Allen and Paul Pierce bring the ball up at times.
“I’m OK with Tony,” Rivers said. “I don’t know the answer with Rondo. I don’t like the minutes, but as you saw in the fourth quarter, we took him for two minutes and it changed quickly. Our plan was to take him out in the first half, but then Paul got in foul trouble. I told him at that point, I’m sorry.”
|Rondo named to NBA-All Defensive Team||at 3:06 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, the league announced on Wednesday. Rondo finished second in voting to Dwight Howard. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Gerald Wallace were also named to the First Team.
Rondo led the league with 2.3 steals per game during the regular season. He set a Celtics franchise record in single-season steals (189), held previously by Rick Fox (1996-97). Rondo also ranked 10th among all guards with 360 total rebounds (4.4 rpg).
Members of the First and Second Teams were voted on by position by the NBA’s head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.
All-Defensive First Team
Center ‘ Dwight Howard, Magic (57 points)
Guard ‘ Rajon Rondo, Celtics (50 points)
Forward ‘ LeBron James, Cavaliers (45 points)
Guard ‘ Kobe Bryant, Lakers (34 points)
Forward ‘ Gerald Wallace, Bobcats (30 points)
All-Defensive Second Team
Center ‘ Tim Duncan, Spurs (21 points)
Guard ‘ Dwyane Wade, Heat (20 points)
Forward ‘ Josh Smith, Hawks (20 points)
Forward ‘ Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers (15 points)
Guard ‘ Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder (14 points)
|Expect more physical play in Game 2||05.03.10 at 1:40 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — There has been a lot made of the hard foul that Shaquille O’Neal administered to Rajon Rondo late in Game 1 that sent Rondo careening to the floor. One overheated Cleveland media member asked Cavs coach Mike Brown if it was the hardest playoff foul he’s ever seen.
Obviously it wasn’t, but Brown raised some eyebrows when he said he asked the NBA for clarification over whether it actually was even a foul. Brown’s contention is that Rondo initiated the contact.
That’s standard operating procedure during playoff series when teams will send a handful of plays to the league to ask for clarification. The real reason is to send a subtle message about calls that were, or were not made, during the course of a game to set the tone for the next one.
The referees for Game 2 are Dan Crawford, Dick Bavetta and Eddie Malloy. They should expect to see a lot of contact. For the record, the Celtics had no problems with the foul that O’Neal gave to Rondo.
“He’s just got to keep going in there,” Doc Rivers said. “Shaq’s doing what should do. I didn’t think what Shaq did was dirty or anything else. It was just a hard playoff foul. I actually applaud it. We need more of that. Both ways.”
Cavs guard Mo Williams lauded O’Neal for his foul both after Game 1 and again Monday morning as the team went through their shootaround.
“It’s a great asset to have, knowing that he’s going to give hard fouls,” Williams said. “Teams know that. They know that once they go in there they’re going to get hit, so brace yourself.”
Rondo can expect to get a huge amount of attention from the Cavs defense tonight. He saw Williams, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon at times in Game 1. The Celtics expected as much and while Brown said he would probably start Game 2 the same way — with Williams on Rondo — he won’t hesitate to go back to Parker, who is being hailed around Ohio as a Rondo stopper. A notion the Celtics don’t agree with.
“Honestly, it didn’t really affect us much,” Rivers said. “I thought Rondo’s fourth foul affected Rondo far more than Parker guarding Rondo. I think Rondo likes that matchup in a lot of ways. But that’s what you do. That’s what teams do. That’s what I would do. It’s always better to put a longer guy on a quicker guy. We actually thought it would be LeBron more.”
One thing is certain. If the Celtics are going to come back to Boston with a split, they will have to be the aggressors. Both in taking the ball to the basket and in defending the rim.
“We do have to be more physical,” Kendrick Perkins said. “We have to take it to them tonight. We have to be the more physical team. Last game they were, so tonight we just got to go out there and do what we got to do to get the win.”
|All eyes on Rondo||05.02.10 at 5:03 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo might have the most difficult job of any player in the playoffs.
On the one hand, he is emerging as the Celtics best player and their best chance to upset Cleveland. On the other hand, he still has to make sure that his teammates, particularly Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are all involved in the offense.
“It’s difficult,” Rondo said. “I still believe that we have to go through the Big Three. I try to get those guys the ball as much as possible, but at the same time keep [the defense] honest. I guess in the second half that’s exactly what I did, called more movement plays. At the start of the third I was aggressive but after that I wanted the ball to keep moving. I wanted to keep everyone involved.”
The Cavaliers don’t have anyone who can guard him, so they tried three different players — Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and superfreak Jamario Moon in certain situation. Parker earned praise for containing Rondo in the second half after he blitzed Williams for 19 points and eight assists in the first half, but that’s a classic case of a cause and effect.
Rondo took just two shots and scored just eight points to go with four assists in the second half and for that, Parker gets the credit. But really the Celtics didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were available to them. Some of that is on Rondo, but not all of it.
“It’s a tough one for Rondo because he’s so conscious of Paul and Ray,” Rivers said. “If you have a pick and roll advantage you have to take advantage. I thought he tired to facilitate and the guys didn’t take advantage of it. We didn’t take advantage of what he created and that actually makes Rondo better if we do because then they can’t focus on him as much.”
If there was one overriding truth from Game 1 for the Celtics, it’s that Rondo has a huge mismatch over Williams, and no matter who the Cavs put on him, he has to take it upon himself to carry the load.
“I’m still trying to figure it out.,” Rondo said. “It’s hard at times. At first I wasn’t aggressive at all to start the game. As soon as I came out, maybe nine minutes into the game, and came to the sidelines, Doc was telling me to be aggressive. I just tried to turn it on and attack the rim.”
Is there a danger of relying too much on Rondo? A better question might be, as opposed to what?
“He’s a good player and he’s going to have the opportunity to get into the paint,” Rivers said. “Should we say they rely too much on LeBron? You got something going, you stick with it. I thought we should have done it more.”
|Celtics seek to find Mo||05.01.10 at 7:40 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo is one of the best offensive rebounding point guards in the NBA. For a team that doesn’t get a lot of offensive boards to begin with, his ability to crash the glass and keep possessions alive is yet another piece of Rondo’s unique package.
But against the Cavs, Rondo may have to use his discretion. That’s because Mo Williams, Cleveland’s ace 3-point specialist is on the other side.
“Offensive rebounds are great as long as you get them, but when you don’t get them you’re probably going to give up a basket on the offensive end.,” Doc Rivers said prior to Game 1. “Against Cleveland, it’s even more important because if our points guards go to the glass and don’t get it, Mo Williams is probably going to get a 3. Most of his 3’s against us came in transition. Most of Mo’s 3’s against everyone else came through set offense. We’re pretty sure that we have to get back and find him.”
Williams shot 55 percent on 3’s against the Celtics this season (12-for-22) and the Celtics have made defending the arc a tip priority in this series. The other concern for Rivers is that when Rondo drives to the basket, that could leave him vulnerable in transition.
“Mo will leak out,” Rivers said. “That’s the other place that he got 3’s.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t want to completely take away this aspect of Rondo’s game. Just as he is allowed some leeway on the perimeter when he goes for steals, he is also allowed some latitude when he crashes the glass.
Cavs coach Mike Brown indicated that it’s difficult to prepare for Rondo because there’s no way to replicate what he does in practice.
“I think that guy is in Jamaica,” Rivers said. “His name is Usain Bolt. Just like we can’t recreate LeBron [James]. You can’t recreate any of those guys.”
Rivers has spoken in glowing terms about Rondo’s increased maturity this season. From running the team and calling plays, to knowing when to gamble for steals and you can add his rebounding to that list, as well. There’s a lot riding on Rondo’s shoulders in this series.