Rondo ready to return, says he has nothing to prove

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Rondo ready to return, says he has nothing to prove

WALTHAM Boston's Game 2 win at Atlanta was certainly a different kind of night for Rajon Rondo who for a change was getting assists - and not handing them out - from his teammates.

The entire Celtics squad rallied in his absence for the Game 2 victory after Rondo's late-game implosion in Game 1 landed him a one-game suspension.

No matter how well or woeful anyone played in Game 2, a Celtics loss would have been pinned on Rondo being suspended whether it was warranted or not.

Fortunately for him and the C's, that's a non-issue now.

"We did this for him (Rondo) tonight," C's guard Keyon Dooling said following Boston's Game 2 win. "This is a tribute to Rondo; we've got his back."

The bigger concern is how will Rondo respond in Game 3 on Friday, a game in which the Celtics have to win in order to maintain their home court advantage.

Rondo understands the importance of Friday's game as the Celtics will look to win their first game in this series with Rondo in the lineup.

"I don't have anything to prove," Rondo said. "Why would I have anything to prove? I just want to win; that's it. This is a game I been playing my entire life. The world knows what I can do; like I said, the world knows what I can do; go out there and continue to do what I do best and that's be the best point guard in the NBA."

One of the keys to the C's Game 2 win was that Paul Pierce, playing the role of point-forward for most of the night with Rondo out, began the game with a very aggressive brand of basketball that led to him scoring Boston's first nine points.

C's coach Doc Rivers expects Rondo to come out attacking as well, although Rondo says he'll look to impact the game the way he does most nights - as a passer.

"I'm a pass-first point guard," said Rondo, who led the NBA in assists (11.7) this season. "It's not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy, and get a win."

And remember, Rondo has missed 14 games this season - that includes Tuesday's win by the Celtics - during three separate stints.

Boston's record this season when he returns to the lineup?

3-0.

In those first games back to the floor, Rondo has indeed fallen right back in line with what he loves to do, and that's pass the ball to teammates. He's averaging 11 assists in those three games, but averaging just 2.3 points. Aside from assists and points, Rondo's return in those games displaying the kind of poise that a playmaker has to have this time of year.

While no one wants to see Rondo muffle his emotions too much, there is a fine line that he crosses occasionally.

There's no such thing as a good time for the Celtics to not have Rondo, but there are times - like Game 2 on Tuesday - that are definitely worst times than most.

In January, Rondo was suspended for two games after throwing the ball at an official in Detroit. And most recently, he was tossed out of Game 1 by official Marc Davis after Rondo bumped him, and the league came out with a ruling later on that suspended him for just one game.

"Try not to let my emotions get the best of me; but I am an emotional player," Rondo sad. "Try to keep my composure and my emotions to myself, but it was a heat of the battle moment. I wanted to win."

So do the rest of the Celtics, well aware that their chances of doing just that are much greater with Rondo on the floor than without him.

And the sooner Game 3 arrives, the sooner Rondo can put his Game 2 suspension.

"You learn from your mistakes. It's not the end of the world," Rondo said. "The great thing about it, the series is 1-1 and we're in boston."

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”
 

 

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”