Blakely: Is Rondo as Celtics future leader a good thing?

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Blakely: Is Rondo as Celtics future leader a good thing?

ATLANTA There's little doubt that Rajon Rondo is in many ways being groomed to be the Boston Celtics' leader of the future.

But it's times like this that may you wonder is that a good thing?

Rondo lost his composure in the closing seconds on Sunday, and the Celtics wound up losing the game, 83-74, as the Atlanta Hawks take a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.

Making matters worse, his chest-bumping of official Marc Davis, as expected, resulted in a one-game suspension without pay, that will be enforcedultimately resulting him getting ejected, factoring into the Celtics' 83-74 loss, and to make matters even worse, he's now suspended for Game 2 on Tuesday.

Now the Celtics have been a team handling adversity since before the season started. And this, for many of them, is par for the course.

But here's the problem.

It's one thing to handle adversity when it lands in your lap. Totally different matter when you bring it upon yourself and your teammates which is exactly what Rondo has done.

If the Celtics lose this series, you can bet they won't blame Father Time, they won't blame Ray Allen's gimpy ankle, they could care less if Josh Smith continued playing like an All-Star.

It'll be Rondo's fault.

Fair or not, that's part of the deal that comes with being the future face of the franchise. That's part of the deal when you play at a ridiculously high level in games with a national TV audience.

"We've been prepared to play without him," C's Paul Pierce said before the announcement that he would be out. "We've been prepared to play without a number of guys. That's no excuse. It's game two. It's a game that we gotta have."

And if this season is any barometer for what's to come, the Celtics will probably win Game 2 and tilt home court advantage in their favor.

But even if they do that and the C's go on to the next round of the playoffs, Rondo's maturation once again will be an issue moving forward.

The talent that he has is off the charts. You can search high and wide, and you won't find another player in the NBA with his court vision or knack for getting the ball to guys in their sweet spots.

And while he's just 26 years old, these emotional outbursts - and their timing - has to give Danny Ainge and the Celtics' brass reason to pause.

Think back to February when the Celtics were at Detroit and Rondo, upset at an official for what he believed was a non-call - sounds familiar? - then tossed the ball to the official with shall we say, a little more force than needed.

He was ejected from that game and then hit with a two-game suspension.

Oh, the two games he missed?

They were only road games at Dallas - the reigning NBA champion - and Oklahoma City who at the time, had the best record in the Western Conference.

Yes, his timing then - and now - could not have been much worse, all things considered.

But here's the challenge for Boston.

The very thing that got him suspended - strong, passionate emotions - is the very thing he brings to the floor that the Celtics desperately need.

"Rondo's an emotional player," Rivers said. "You know that old saying,'I'd rather kindle a fire than start one?' I like his fire and sometimes it burns you. You know what I mean? But I like the fire that he has. He's a fighter for his team. You don't want him to go that far, obviously. But it's just who he is. It's also part of what makes him great. It's that fine line that you have to walk, and every once in a while he crosses it."

He certainly did on Sunday.

And chances are pretty good he'll cross it again at some point in the near future.

The Celtics can brush it aside to some degree now because they have leaders already in place to handle these kind of situations.

But Paul Pierce isn't going to be around forever. Ditto for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

At some point, there will not be a sharing of power at the top of the leadership board with the Celtics.

This will be Rondo's team.

And while the fire and passion he plays with is certainly a big part of both his success and that of the Celtics, these are the times when we're reminded that his leadership skills are very much a work in progress.

But make no mistake about it.

He will be a leader, the undisputed leader of this team very soon.

But you have to wonder . . . is that a good thing?

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.