Rondo the scorer takes over in Game 3

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Rondo the scorer takes over in Game 3

PHILADELPHIA NBA scouting reports on Rajon Rondo vary with the exception of one thing -- they all want him to shoot. A lot.

The Philadelphia 76ers got their wish in Game 3, but the outcome wasn't quite what they were looking for.

Rondo, looking for his shot early and often, made the Sixers pay for allowing him to get into a flow scoring the ball.

When he's doing that, the Celtics are difficult to compete with, let alone defeat.

Philadelphia can attest to that after the C's 107-91 win, a game that wasn't nearly as close as the still-lopsided final score would indicate.

Rondo had 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting, to go with 14 assists and just one turnover.

Of his 23 points, 13 came in the first quarter.

The game plan coming in was to get the ball to Kevin Garnett on the post as often as possible. But the Sixers defense was so focused on taking that away and limiting the touches Paul Pierce got, they left Rondo with little choice but to attack a relatively wide open paint area.

Rondo said his success as a scorer began with the Celtics collectively playing good defense.

"I got out in transition," he said. "We got out as a team in transition, but it started when we got a couple stops early. Then we went back and forth trading baskets, but other than that, I had some matchups in transition and wanted to try and attack the rim."

It was the kind of performance that Rondo delivers often during the playoffs.

But there was a different kind of focus with Rondo on Wednesday night, the kind that speaks to how locked in he was heading into Game 4.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers noticed Rondo seemed, well, different during the team's Wednesday morning shoot-around.

"Rondo was extremely serious in shoot-around," Rivers said. "I thought he really set the tone for our mental approach and that's what we need to stay in."

Said Rondo: "I believed we needed this game. It wasn't just me, it was everyone."

Even when it comes to praise, Rondo's still in pass-first mode.

But as he continues to evolve as an elite NBA point guard, he's continuing to improve in figuring out when to dominate the game as a passer, and when to torch all those scouting reports about his shooting and showcase his ability to score the ball.

"Teams dictate their defense by trying to play off of Rondo and do different things," Rivers said. "When Rondo becomes an offensive threat ... Kevin becomes a better offensive player, and Paul (Pierce), become better offensive players because you can't spend the game trying to help off of him. I thought he set the tone for us."

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”