Celtics-Pacers preview: Rondo's balancing act huge for C's

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Celtics-Pacers preview: Rondo's balancing act huge for C's

BOSTON If Rajon Rondo had his way, he would spend all game just setting guys up for shots, racking up assists.

But on this Boston Celtics team this season, Rondo has to do more - much more than that - in order for the C's to be successful.

Getting Rondo to become a more aggressive scorer more consistently is one of the many challenges facing head coach Doc Rivers.

As far as pushing the right buttons to get Rondo to be more aggressive, Rivers says, "that button is pushed all the time. When Rondo has the ball he has to be an aggressive scorer."

This season, Rondo is averaging 13 points per game which is slightly below his career-high 13.7 points per game average during the 2009-2010 season.

"I try to let the game develop, but depending on the season my role may change," Rondo said. "I think it has a little bit. I have to maintain my focus and not try to over-do everything. I try to score more, but at the same time still find my teammates, and still score."

Indeed it is a balancing act for the three-time All-star to become more of an offensive force while at the same time stay true to what he does better than anyone in the league - rack up assists.

"That's the definition of a point guard," said Rondo who averages a league-best 11.6 assists per game. "You have to balance out your scoring, but also run the sets. You don't want to be a ball hog or keep the ball, dominate the ball the entire 24 second shot clock. I have talented guys around me."

And while finding them is important, finding ways to score more on his own has value as well.

Rondo's ability to find that happy medium will be a factor in Boston's efforts to snap their season-long losing skid tonight against Indiana. Here are some other factors that may come into play tonight.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will once again be tough to come by for the Celtics against an Indiana team that thrives on making life difficult for opponents offensively. Teams are averaging just 90 points per game against the Pacers, the second-best scoring defense in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Paul George: Pierce will have his hands full defensively against George who has emerged as one of the most improved players this season in part because of an increased opportunity to play with Danny Granger being out.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger seems to keep getting better with each and every opportunity he gets to play. His emergence as a reliable option off the bench who can score and rebound, bodes well in the C's recovery efforts from what has been a disappointing start to the season.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has to hold its own on the boards, which will allow them to get out and run against a Pacers team that isn't used to having its transition defense challenged much. They are giving up a league-low 9.8 fast-break points per game in large part because they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA which prevents teams from getting out in transition even after they make an initial defensive stop.

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

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First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Detroit on Wednesday afternoon:

1) Eduardo Rodriguez pitched pretty well, but not well -- or deep -- enough.

Rodriguez has now made three starts since coming back from Pawtucket and any one of them was better than his starts from earlier this year.

He's no longer tipping his pitches, he's commanding better in general and his fastball has been more powerful.

But he's also giving up a lot of hits (19 in 18 innings) and he's gotten through the sixth inning just once in his three outings. For a team short in its bullpen, that's leaving a big workload for the relievers.

2) The late-inning comebacks have been in short supply.

Yes,  the Red Sox have scored runs by the boatload at times. And yes, they've mostly played hard this season.

But before Wednesday, the Sox had been just 3-35 when trailing after seven innings and they had enjoyed only two walkoff wins all season.

Those numbers can be misleading, of course. Teams can dig out from early holes -- as the Red Sox did Tuesday night.

But the ninth-inning rallies haven't happened much. In fact, on the current home stand, the Sox have had the top-to-middle part of the order up in the bottom of the ninth -- with David Ortiz getting an at-bat each time -- on four separate occasions, trailing by a run or two, and couldn't produce a winning rally.

3) Clay Buchholz may be pitching himself out of the doghouse

After going weeks -- literally --between appearances, Buchholz has been called upon four times in the last seven games.

Granted, in most of those games, the Red Sox have been trailing. But the games were such that they were still within reach, contradicting John Farrell's remarks late last week when he broadly hinted that he didn't trust Buchholz in games that were close.

Slowly, however, Buchholz could be earning some trust coming out of the bullpen. He had a perfect inning Wednesday with the Sox trailing by a run at the time.