Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5


Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5

PHILADELPHIA Typically the best players for each respective team make their way to the podium following playoff games.

For the Celtics, that was Brandon Bass after the team's Game 5 win on Monday night. But as well as Bass played, he should not have been up there by himself.

And as you listened to him extol on all that went right for him in an absolute, we-had-to-have-this-one kind of game for the C's, one name kept coming up: Rajon Rondo.

Rondo can maddening at times, for fans, his coaches and his teammates.

But in those we-gotta-have-it kind of games, there are few in the NBA who consistently step their game up like he does.

And Rondo, not one to disappoint, did just that in Game 5 with a stealth-like dominance as he finished with 13 points and 14 assists with just three turnovers.

"When they broke the game open (in the third quarter), he was the catalyst for the whole attack," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

In the third, the Celtics were trailing 57-53 when Kevin Garnett was whistled for an offensive foul.

From there, it was all Boston as the C's went on to close out the quarter with a 22-9 run and take firm control of the game, and with it, this series.

During the run, Boston made nine field goals with Rondo dropping dimes on all but two of them.

And in the fourth quarter, with the Sixers even more fearful of Rondo's passing attack, he changed his game up just a bit and become more assertive as a scorer by tallying seven points in the quarter.

No matter how you want to look at it, Rondo's imprint has been all over this series - and so far, there's nothing the Sixers have been able to do about it.

"It starts with Rondo," said Sixers forward Elton Brand. "You have to stop Rondo."

Easier said than done, especially when he's in that zone where he's finding that perfect balance between doing what he does best - getting the ball to his teammates - and managing to get some points of his own without turning the ball over too often.

"He's being aggressive, scoring lay-ups, getting into the paint," Brand added. "It leaves Kevin Garnett open for a jumper, it leaves Brandon Bass open for a jumper or a drive."

And that makes the Celtics an extremely difficult team to beat, home or on the road.

To see Rondo thrive this time of year is nothing unusual.

But as many triple-doubles as he has compiled in the postseason, as many dominant performances that he has delivered, C's coach Doc Rivers thought his play in the second half of Monday's Game 5 win was right up there with some of his best moments with the Celtics.

"The second half was one of the best games he's had this year for us," Rivers said. "I thought it was more than just the basketball part of it. I thought his will, his leadership, we needed it. And he gave it to us."

It was one of those rare nights where Rondo's words seemed just as powerful as his play, as he directed players repeatedly to get to certain spots on the floor. It was the vocal leadership that at times, Rondo has shied away from doing as much as he probably should.

"I can hear him barking at guys, demanding guys get into spots," Rivers said. "And that's not something he loves doing."

But he loves to win, and has shown time and time again the willingness to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Said Rivers: "Like I said, we needed somebody to lead us. And I thought he did a great job with it."

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.