Ball up: Pregame one-on-one improving play of Lee, Rondo


Ball up: Pregame one-on-one improving play of Lee, Rondo

WALTHAM Doling out assists is a big part of Rajon Rondo's game. But it's the ones that most fans don't see that have helped elevate his play and that of his Boston Celtics teammate Courtney Lee.

Prior to many games, the two play one-on-one games in which they push, poke and jab -physically and verbally - with one goal in mind: to make the other better.

Lately it has been working for both players, but especially Lee who has established himself as a steady contributor despite limited minutes.

This season, Lee is averaging 6.7 points per game in 23.2 minutes. During Boston's four-game winning streak - all with Avery Bradley back in the fold, - Lee has seen his minutes dip to 17.8 per game but he's still chipping in 6.4 points while shooting 52.4 percent from the field during that span.

"It has been real good for me, and for him too," Lee told of facing Rondo daily. "Rondo's one of the best guards, craftiest guards in the NBA. If you can hold your own against him defensively, you're good to go when you get in a game because there aren't many guards who can do what he can do out there."

Lee's man-to-man defense has indeed taken a step forward lately, with him and Bradley at times forming a lethal 1-2 defensive punch that has put defensive backcourts on their heels.

"No disrespect to Rondo or any other guards we got, but Courtney Lee and Avery are impacting the game from a defensive standpoint from the guard position where it all trickles down to all the forwards," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "When we see them up like that, we get up and then we up to what we call, major pressure."

And that has had a major impact on the C's reeling off a season-best four straight wins.

As for Rondo, he too says the one-on-one duels with Lee have helped make him a better player as well.

While Rondo's scoring average of 13.1 points is slightly better than his career average (11 points) and just a shade below his career-best (13.7), the most noticeable change in his game this season has been his perimeter shot making.

Rondo is shooting 49.1 percent from the field this season which ranks among the top-5 among guards this season.

"It gets you in attack mode early," Rondo told in describing his battles with Lee before games. "You want to get off to a good start. Just getting loose, getting our rhythm, getting some of the game-like shots like when we drive against other opponents. We just feed off one another."

Rask out tonight vs. Canadiens, Bruins call up McIntyre from Providence


Rask out tonight vs. Canadiens, Bruins call up McIntyre from Providence

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It would appear to be something a little more serious than “general soreness” with Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins No. 1 goaltender was missing from the ice at Warrior Ice Arena for Saturday’s morning skate and Claude Julien said he won't play tonight vs. the Montreal Canadiens.

Instead, the B’s have recalled Zane McIntyre from Providence on an emergency basis and to serve as Anton Khudobin’s backup. Rask has clearly been battling a lower body injury since the opening night win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last week and it cropped up again in the Thursday night win over the New Jersey Devils.

The same injury also forced the B’s to play Khudobin instead of Rask in their only loss of the season, a 4-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs in Toronto one week ago.

Rask admitted he was playing through a little “something-something” after the Jersey win and Julien would only say that his goalie has “general soreness” and is considered day-to-day after missing team practice on Friday.  Julien reiterated the day-to-day status Saturday.

“He’s doing better, but we’re going to shut him off for a bit,” said Julien, who said he wasn’t concerned about the long-term health of his franchise goaltender. “We’ll give him another day’s rest at least, but we’ll still go day-by-day.”

 It’s a severe case of bad timing for both Rask and the B’s as the Finnish netminder is off to a roaring start this season (3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average) after his worst season last year for the Black and Gold.

The 24-year-old McIntyre has appeared in three games for Providence, going 1-0-0 and leading the AHL in goals-against average (0.44) and save percentage (.977) in a solid start after a rough rookie pro season last year.

Boston’s sixth round pick in the 2010, McIntyre, played his first professional season with Providence in 2015-16, going14-8-7 with a 2.68 GAA and .898 save percentage in 31 games.

Malcolm Subban might have been the call-up under different circumstances, but has been pulled by the P-Bruins twice in the span of a week including a Friday night loss where he allowed three goals in the first period in an eventual 4-1 loss.