Rondo has playoff game for the ages despite Celtics loss

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Rondo has playoff game for the ages despite Celtics loss

MIAMI When the final horn sounded, there was nothing else Rajon Rondo could do.

You always hear about players leaving everything they had on the floor. More often than not, it's just talk.

With Rondo on Wednesday night?

It was the truth.

The 6-foot-1 point guard delivered the kind of performance that's seldom seen in the NBA.

But as impressive as Rondo's night was, it was a bittersweet experience as the Celtics lost, 115-111, in overtime.

Rondo didn't just lead all players - he lapped them - in scoring a career-high 44 points on 16-for-24 shooting. And once again, he was flirting with a 10th playoff career triple-double, but fell short with 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"He had a great game," said Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus. "That's the way we want him to play. He was doing everything."

Actually, Rondo doing everything has been a pretty common refrain for the Celtics' playmaker all season.

But on Wednesday, it was different.

Not only did he dominate most of every minute he was on the floor, he actually wound up playing every single minute of the game.

Rondo had the attention and respect of all the Heat players and coaching staff heading into Wednesday night's game.

But the performance he put on seems to have been even greater than anything they had imagined.

"Rondo was absolutely amazing," said Miami's LeBron James. "He made all the plays and tried to will his team to a victory. He showed tonight why he's an all-pro and one of the superstars in this league. He's an unbelievable player. He gave everything he had tonight."

And as good as it was, it still wasn't enough for the Celtics to even this series at 1-1 and with that, assume home court advantage.

That's why the fact that it's one of the greatest games ever played by a Celtic player in the playoffs, has little to no importance to Rondo at this time.

"It's irrelevant," he said. "We lost. It's as simple as that."

Rondo's comments are not at all surprising.

He has maintained for years that individual accolades will always take a back seat to winning games.

"You know, it's tough to have him play that way and not win the game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Because he did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game."

And that only adds to the disappointment and frustration the Celtics feel, knowing that they let a very winnable game slip away from them.

Rivers said the sting of Wednesday's loss will last around 24 hours for his players.

After that, it's on to the next game.

"It's corny, but they've won two games at home, and now we go to a place that we're comfortable in, and we have to win two games at home," Rivers said. "Then we'll see from there."

Well aware that the officiating would once again be a talking point after the game, Rivers was quick to place the blame for Wednesday's loss squarely on him and his players.

"We just have to play better," he said. "We're not going to blame we have to play better. And we will."

It's hard to imagine Rondo would be close to having as big an impact in Game 3 as he did in Wednesday's Game 2 loss. But if he does struggle, he won't place the blame on fatigue - he played all 53 minutes on Wednesday - or anything like that.

"I wanted to play every minute," Rondo said. "I thought I didn't hurt my team by me playing every minute. I wanted to go out there and continue to do my best for my team."

He did just that on Wednesday, coming up with the kind of performance that ranks among the all-time greats not just with the Celtics, but in playoff lore as well.

"He is an incredible talent," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "He is doing some things that only elite players have done."

To see Rondo evolve into the kind of player that can take over not just a playoff game - but an Eastern Conference finals game - speaks volumes as to how much he has grown and learned from the Big Three that's now the Big Four with him included.

"We feed off what he's doing now," said C's guard Ray Allen.

Glen Robinson wins NBA All-Sar Slam Dunk Contest

Glen Robinson wins NBA All-Sar Slam Dunk Contest

Glenn Robinson III is the NBA's new dunk king, with an assist to Indiana teammate Paul George, the Pacers' mascot and a Pacers cheerleader.

Robinson leaped over all three, snagging the ball from George along the way before finishing with an emphatic, two-hand, reverse jam, giving him a perfect score - and the title - on his final dunk.

"I know I'm a jumper. Like I said, I'm a guy that stays out of the way, but when it's time to shine, that's my thing," Robinson said. "I knew all along I had some things planned and I just wanted to show the world."

Robinson edged out Phoenix's Derrick Jones Jr., who was done in by his failure to complete his difficult first dunk of two in the final round.

Jones still managed a perfect score on his second dunk, when he received a bounce-pass in the paint, put it between his legs and threw down a left-handed jam. But Robinson made sure it wasn't enough.

In the 3-point contest, Houston's Eric Gordon dethroned Golden State splash brother Klay Thompson. Kristaps Porzingisof the New York Knicks won the Skills Challenge.

Both dunk finalists delighted the crowd with soaring slams over teammates and others that showcased the explosive spring in their vertical leaps.

"I thought I would go up against Derrick in the finals," Robinson said. "I've seen the things that he can do. That guy can jump."

Robinson's first dunk was one of his best. He leap-frogged one man sitting on another's shoulders, grabbed the ball from the elevated man's hands and slammed it home. He said 2000 dunk champ Vince Carter was one of his primary influences, along with Michael Jordan, of course.

"Vince Carter did one of his best dunks first, and it kind of intimidated people. That's what I wanted to go out and do," Robinson said. "Who knows if it worked, but they missed some of their dunks and it gave me a little more room."

Afterward, he couldn't take his hands off of the trophy - a gold basketball - and made it sound as if that would remain the case through the weekend.

"I know I'm not letting go of her right there," he said. "She's following me everywhere I go. It's Mardi Gras. We're going to have a good time."

Jones jumped over four teammates including Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss in the first round. He also drew roars from the crowd when he took a pass off the side of the backboard from Booker with his right hand, put the ball between his legs to his left for a round-house jam.

The dunk that cost him was a bold one. He tried to leap a friend and the Suns' gorilla mascot, grab the ball on the way over, put it between his legs and then finish with a windmill. But he couldn't get the dunk to go down in his allotted three attempts.

DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Aaron Gordon of Orlando were unable to emerge from the first round. Jordan dunked over DJ turn tables and Gordon dunked after receiving a bounce pass from a drone that had flown over the court with the "Star Wars" theme music playing.

Eric Gordon got his win in New Orleans, where he played the previous five seasons before leaving last summer in free agency.

Gordon's score of 21 in a final-round tiebreaker defeated Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, the 2013 winner, who had 18. The pair had each finished with a score of 20 in the final round, meaning they each had to shoot 25 more balls to decide it.

"I wasn't really concentrating on how many I made," Gordon said. "It's all about just knocking down the shot. I never counted in my head or anything. I just go out there and just shoot the ball."

Thompson was stunningly eliminated in the first round, missing a final shot from the corner that could have put him through ahead of Kemba Walker.

Big men reigned supreme for a second straight year in the skills competition, with the 7-foot-3 Porzingis beating Utah's Gordon Hayward in the final round.

Those vanquished in earlier rounds included guards John Wall of Washington and Isaiah Thomas of Boston, both because they couldn't make their initial 3-pointers required to close out the course before Hayward did, even though Hayward had trailed each of them dribbling down the court by a considerable margin before hitting his clinching shots.

Porzingis emerged from the big-men's division that included the Pelicans' Anthony Davis and Denver's Nikola Jokic.

"It's a good feeling that I'm able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you're capable of doing that even if you're tall and lanky like me," Porzingis said.

Porzingis and Hayward were neck-and-neck until the end of the course, but Porzingis hit his 3 first to end it.

The three-round, head-to-head obstacle-course competition tests dribbling, passing, agility and shooting skills.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report

Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists

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Webber, Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists

NEW ORLEANS - Chris Webber and Rollie Massimino are one step from the Hall of Fame.

The career 20-point-per-game NBA scorer and the coach who led Villanova to a stunning upset of Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game were among the 14 finalists unveiled Saturday for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Webber played 15 seasons with five franchises, plus was part of Michigan's famed "Fab Five" group that headlined college basketball in the early 1990s.

"I don't know what I'm most proud of," said Webber, who averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in his career and was a five-time NBA All-Star. "I'm proud to be in the room with all these great individuals."

Other first-time Hall of Fame finalists include longtime NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut women's star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self, and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

"I still can't believe I'm here," McGrady said. "This is not even a dream come true."

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include star point guard and Olympic gold medalist Tim Hardaway, winningest all-time boys high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach and four-time Division III national champion Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU women's national champion team Wayland Baptist University.

"We are grateful to the 14 finalists in the Class of 2017 for the impact they have had on the game we cherish," Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "To be named a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment."

Inductees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. Enshrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are scheduled for Sept. 7-9.

Massimino, now an 82-year-old cancer survivor who is still coaching at NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a finalist for the first time. His Hall of Fame hopes have been backed by plenty of current and former coaches in recent months - including current Villanova coach Jay Wright, who presented Massimino with a championship ring from the Wildcats' 2016 NCAA title.

"Some days, we do take him for granted," Keiser guard Andrija Sarenac said. "But then you see him on TV so much, you see all these videos made about him, the movies about Villanova and everything, and it just hits you. You realize that he's a legend. I mean, your coach is a walking legend. With the energy and everything he comes in with, it's inspiring."

Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be enshrined. Among this year's candidates who did not make the finalist group: Muggsy Bogues, Ben Wallace, Kevin Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Mark Price, Lefty Driesell and Eddie Sutton.

Former New York Times sports writer Harvey Araton and former Turner Sports broadcaster Craig Sager will be recognized during Hall of Fame weekend as this year's Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients.

"A tremendous honor," said Sager's wife Stacy.

This year's lifetime achievement award recipients are former UConn coach Donald "Dee" Rowe and Michael Goldberg, who spent nearly four decades as executive director of the NBA Coaches Association. Goldberg died earlier this year.

"He bridged the gap between ownership and coaches," said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, who spoke about Goldberg on Saturday while wearing a bow tie - one of the signature wardrobe accessories that Goldberg donned for years. "He was just such a great guy."