Celtics, Heat react to news of Rondo's ACL tear

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Celtics, Heat react to news of Rondo's ACL tear

BOSTON Within moments of what was their biggest win of the season, the Boston Celtics were in no mood to celebrate.

Shortly after the C's 100-98 double overtime win over Miami, Celtics coach Doc Rivers broke the news to his players that Rajon Rondo had a torn right ACL injury and would be lost for the rest of the season.

Within minutes, the news of Rondo's injury spread to the Heat locker room.

Here's a sampling of how players on both teams reacted to the news that Rondo, the NBA's assists leader, was done for the season.

"He's our leader, and it hurt. It's tough to hear that news, one of our top players go down. We have to be there for him. We just have to continue to build. Everyone collectively has to step up." - Celtics forward Jeff Green

"It's tough; tough on everybody. He's becoming the heart and soul of this team. He's coming into his own. It's a blow man, I'm not gonna front. It's a blow." - Celtics big man Kevin Garnett

"Very tough and sad. I still have faith that he's going to come back as soon as possible. He's a big key for this team; a big difference. We here to get his back, to support him in anything he needs. It's sad. I can't believe that it's like that. Hopefully he'll be OK." - Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa

"We're family, so you feel bad for him. You know I know he wants the best for us, and wants us to continue to go out there and play hard for him every game. And that's what we are going to do." - Celtics guard Avery Bradley

"You have a lot of mixed emotions in here. You want to celebrate the win but yu now you feel for y9our teammate, a leader. Pretty much wherever he goes, we go. It's hard knowing that he's going to be out for the year. It's a tough pill to swallow." - Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

"It's sad news but we've got to fill his shoes the best way we can and that's just going out there and playing hard." - Celtics guardforward Courtney Lee

"One thing about this league is it's a brotherhood. You never want to see anyone go down with any kind of injury, especially a season-ending injury. So it's very unfortunate and it sucks, man. He's a great player and he really is the leader of this team and obviously guys are gonna have to step up for them, but this year they lost the leader of their team, so it's tough for the game to lose a player like Rondo, but especially for Boston." - Miami guard Dwyane Wade

"It sucks. It's terrible. As much as a competitor and as much as I've been a rival with Boston over the years, I never want to see anyone go down and knowing the competitor that he is and knowing how talented he is, I think it's terrible. Not only for their team but for the league." - Miami forward LeBron James

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

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Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”