Blakely: Rondo's big-game DNA shines through in Game 7

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Blakely: Rondo's big-game DNA shines through in Game 7

BOSTON In the NBA, there are some who eventually develop into the kind of players that can come through down the stretch.

And then there's Rajon Rondo, a player who clearly possesses big-game DNA that allows him to find different ways to lead the Boston Celtics to victory when the lights are their brightest and the challenge is great.

"That guy has become the motor that drives this team," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

It's hard to explain how Rondo, maybe more than any player in the NBA, can go from being relatively dormant for most of the night, only to transform into a dominant figure as he did on Saturday in leading the Celtics to an 85-75 Game 7 win and with it, a trip to the Eastern Conference finals where they'll face the Miami Heat with Game 1 set for Monday.

Rondo finished Saturday's series-clinching win with his ninth playoff triple-double, tallying 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Of his 18 points, 11 came in the fourth quarter when the C's were in desperate need of an offensive punch that became even more daunting when Paul Pierce picked up his sixth personal foul - an offensive foul into Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young.

"Rondo down the stretch was huge," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Especially after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 to play.

It wasn't a coincidence that all of Rondo's 11 fourth-quarter points came after Pierce fouled out.

"You know he felt a sense of urgency, he smelled it, how close we were," Pierce said. "He was able to take over he game with his scoring, and it was just phenomenal to watch."

But Rondo's end-of-the-game explosion offensively was about more than trying to carry the team in Pierce's absence.

He is gradually getting a better feel for when he can take over and dominate game.

"My teammates needed me to step up," Rondo said. "It's not about me; it's a team effort. I just happened to score seven or eight points in a row but my teammates got us to that point."

As well as Rondo has proven himself as a passer, he has shown the ability to be an effective scorer when he makes it a priority.

"That's what makes him good," Rivers said. "Rondo wants to run the team, and he's a great quarterback. With Paul fouling out he had to take charge of the team, and that's good to see as well."

Seeing Rondo have a major impact on the game did not catch Philadelphia by surprise.

However, it is unusual to see him do it with jumpers and free throws - two areas he has been historically weak in throughout his career.

"You know you're thinking a miss," said Sixers guard Jrue Holiday when Rondo pulled up for a pair of jumpers. "But he did what he had to do and that's what good players do. Paul Pierce went out, and I know me personally, I'm thinking, 'let's go.' Rajon Rondo, the player he is, the point guard he is; he came through for his team. He put his team on his back."

And he's looking to do more of the same as the Celtics gear up for a daunting Eastern Conference finals duel with the Miami Heat.

"We feel we can beat Miami," Rondo said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we can. So we gotta go down there and take care of business."

Which is what you expect to hear from a player who has been at his best in big games, a trend he'd like to continue against the Heat.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists. 

Anthony: Despite trade whispers, 'I'm committed' to staying with Knicks

Anthony: Despite trade whispers, 'I'm committed' to staying with Knicks

BOSTON -- When most of Carmelo Anthony’s elite NBA brethren were looking for max-money deals with the flexibility to bounce to another team from one year to the next, the perennial All-Star signed a five-year, $124 million deal in 2014, which was one of the many ways he showed that he’s all-in on being a New York Knick. 
 
And as the Knicks continue to drop one game after another, 'Melo once again finds himself having to answer questions as to whether he wants to be in New York for the long haul. 
 
He acknowledged prior to tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics that he recently met with Phil Jackson, New York’s president of basketball operations. He declined to talk specifics about the meeting, but he was asked whether he felt a need to reiterate his commitment to a Knicks team that finds itself -- for now at least -- on the outside of the playoff picture. 
 
”I think it was just a . . . yeah, I mean, I'm committed,” he said after the team’s shootaround this morning prior to tonight's Celtics-Knicks game. “I don't have to prove that to anybody. I don't think I have to prove that to anybody. I don’t think I have to keep saying that. I don't think I have to keep talking about that. I know for a fact people know that; people see that. And right now my focus is on playing ball and staying with these guys. Because a lot of these guys have never dealt with all of this stuff before. Especially being in a market like New York and dealing with the articles and everybody has a different opinion on different situations. So a lot of these guys have never dealt with that. So for me it's just, it's all about being there. Moreso than ever right now during this time for them.”
  
Since he arrived via (forced) traded from Denver, 'Melo has seen his share of ups and downs in New York -- probably more downs in terms of the team’s success.
 
But even with that familiarity, Anthony acknowledged that this season’s problems do have a different feel than previous ones. 
 
“I've had this a couple times over the past couple seasons so I kinda know what this feeling is like,” Anthony said. “I think now it's a little bit different being the fact that the guys we have on this team, the talent level that's on this team, and for us to still kinda be losing these games, close games, non-close games . . . that's a different feeling.”
 
New York traded for Derrick Rose, a former league MVP, and signed Joakim Noah via free agency. 
 
With those former Bulls, coupled with Anthony and an emerging star in Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks were expected to provide a nucleus for success that would position them to be a playoff contender. The season is still young, but they've have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NBA this season. 
 
After a 16-13 start, their slide began with a Christmas Day loss to Boston that put them in a tailspin that they’re still trying to play their way out of. They come into tonight’s game having lost 11 of their last 13 games and sit six games below .500 at 18-24.
 
And as far as Anthony's future with the Knicks, if he leaves it will be his decision. 
 
But he's maintained -- throughout the peaks and valleys in his time with the Knicks -- that he has no desire to play for any other franchise, which is why the no-trade he has is so important. 
 
Simply put, he ain’t leaving New York unless he wants to. 
 
“I think as players you always want to protect yourself,” Anthony said. “I didn't think it would get to this point, but I think as a player if you can get that (no-trade clause), you have a right to protect yourself and take care of yourself when it comes to that. It's very hard to get . . . So, I have it and that's that.”