Rivers: Rondo calls a 'perfect game'

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Rivers: Rondo calls a 'perfect game'

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES There are many sides to Rajon Rondo's game.

On Sunday, we saw two of them.

In the first half he was in stealth mode, impacting the game without anyone really noticing it.

In the second half, he opted for more of a starring role.

You put the two together, and you have what coach Doc Rivers believes was one of Rondo's best games of the season.

And the Celtics certainly needed it in handing the Los Angeles Lakers a 109-96 loss.

Rondo had 10 points and 16 assists for his team-best 18th double-double this season.

But of the 16 assists, all but one came in the second half.

Even though Rondo wasn't putting up Rondo-esque assist numbers in the first half, Rivers loved what he was seeing out of his point guard.

"I thought he called an absolutely perfect game," Rivers said. "He's our pitcher. He called a sensational game. Coming out of time outs, he made sure guys were in their spots. Rondo played with great speed. When he plays with speed, he has power."

Rondo said the low assists total in the first half had more to do with his teammates making plays, than anything else.

"Tonight, it wasn't for me to make plays in the first half," Rondo said. "Paul Pierce had it going. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen had it going. I tried to get those guys the ball in their spots, and those guys, they made it happen."

And that is the beauty of this Celtics team.

There's no disputing Rondo is the C's best playmaker.

But he understands -- and his teammates accept -- there will be times when others besides Rondo will have to establish themselves as a primary play-maker.

We saw that at Portland on Thursday when Garnett was one rebound and one assist shy of his first triple-double this season, and 21st (if you include the three he has tallied in the playoffs) of his career.

However, the way things were going on Sunday indicated that the Celtics would need Rondo to impact the game in the second half the way fans have grown accustomed to this season.

In the third quarter, Pierce erupted for 14 of his team-high 32 points. Lost in Pierce's scoring binge was some pretty solid passing by Rondo, who tallied six assists in the third.

The biggest difference in the third, Rivers said, was that the Celtics did a better job of defending and getting rebounds, and then quickly getting the ball into Rondo's hands.

"We just kept saying it in every time out," Rivers recalled, "'Find Rondo. Stop coming back to the ball. Run out and he'll find you.'"

Rondo said the biggest change in the second half was the game's pace become more to the Celtics' liking.

"We got stops," Rondo said. "Everything in the first half was a made shot or they were on the free-throw line. It's hard to run, and create the tempo if you're taking the ball out of bounds every time on made baskets or free throws."

With Boston's defense clicking once again, Rondo continued to dominate play in the fourth by scoring four points to go with nine assists.

Just to put it in perspective, Rondo's nine assists in the fourth quarter was just one short of the Lakers' team total of 10 for the entire game.

"The assists, they just came in the second half," Rondo said. "I was pretty much doing the same thing. It's just the tempo changed in the second half."

And that brought about a change in Rondo's game, from stealth to starring role.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.