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.

Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

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Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

WALTHAM, Mass. – Like so many players who have spent part of their NBA journey having Kevin Garnett barking in their ear words of encouragement or just telling them to get the hell out his (bleepin’) way, you can count Avery Bradley among those who will miss the man affectionately known as ‘Big Ticket.’

Garnett recently announced his retirement after 21 NBA seasons, leaving behind a legacy that includes an NBA title won with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Among the current Celtics, Bradley is the only current member of the team who played with Garnett in Boston.

When Bradley got the news about Garnett’s retirement, he said he sat down and wrote Garnett a letter.

“To let him know how much I appreciate him, how special he is to me,” said Bradley who added that his relationship with Garnett was impactful both on and off the court. “Kevin’s just an amazing person.”

Leon Powe, a member of the Celtics’ championship team in 2008 with Garnett, echoed similar praise about his former teammate.

“As a teammate, as a player, KG meant the world to me,” Powe told CSNNE.com. “Intensity … he brought everything you would want to the game, to the practice field, he was just non-stop energy.”

And when you saw it time after time after time with him, pretty soon it became contagious.

“The intensity just motivated every guy on the team, including me,” Powe said. “It made you want to go out and lay it out on the line for him and the team. You see how passionate he is. You see he’s one of the greats. And when you see one of the greats of the NBA going hard like that all the time, you’re like ‘Man, why can’t I do that? It trickled down to me and every young guy on the team.

Powe added, “He brought that every single day, night, morning, it didn’t matter. He brought that intensity. That’s all you could ask for.”

And Garnett’s impact was about more than changing a franchise’s fortunes in terms of wins and losses.

He also proved to be instrumental in helping re-shape the culture into one in which success was once again defined by winning at the highest levels.

“KG has had as big an impact as anybody I’ve been around in an organization,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “The thing that stands out the most to me about KG is his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG, individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice. That’s something I’ll remember about him.”