Rondo leads Celtics over Warriors, 115-93

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Rondo leads Celtics over Warriors, 115-93

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

OAKLAND, Calif. Inside the Boston Celtics locker room there was a chocolate cake for Rajon Rondo, who turned 25 years old on Tuesday.

The Golden State Warriors were in the gift-giving mood as well, as they seemingly gave Rondo and the Celtics anything and everything they wanted in the second half.

And the end result was Boston pulling away for a 115-93 victory that snapped a six-game losing skid at Oracle Arena.

Boston (41-14) had five players in double figures scoring, but it was the play of Rondo that stood out.

He tallied his 23rd double-double this season, finishing with 19 points and 15 assists.

"We haven't won here since I've been a Celtic," said Rondo, who was acquired by the C's on draft night in 2006. "It was key for us to get a win tonight."

On Tuesday, Rondo was getting it done both as a scorer and as a distributor.

However, he was impacting the game in other areas as well.

"Rondo, leadership-wise throughout the game, was getting on guys for taking bad shots," said coach Doc Rivers. "I just thought he was a coach on the floor. He was terrific."

Indeed, Tuesday's game was yet another example of how Rondo's game has matured over the years.

The 19 points scored by Rondo was more than he scored in Boston's two previous games combined. In addition, it was the third-highest scoring game for Rondo this season.

"I just try to take what the defense gave me," Rondo said.

For the Warriors (26-30), that would be anything and everything Rondo wanted.

Even with Don Nelson gone and Keith Smart calling the shots as the Warriors head coach, Golden State is still a horrible team defensively.

In addition to Rondo, Kevin Garnett also made the most of a Golden State defense that put up about as much resistance as a turnstile.

Garnett had 24 points and 12 rebounds for his 18th double-double this season.

But despite the Warriors playing shoddy defense, which allowed Boston to essentially get any shot it wanted, the Celtics found themselves in a 60-60 tie at the half.

Smart and his team had to feel pretty good about themselves at that half when you consider the game's tempo - as well as a lack of defense played by both teams - was clearly to their liking.

"Boston went in at halftime and they knew they had to bring it up a little bit," Smart said.

The C's cranked up the defensive pressure from the opening possession of the second half.

"That's what is good about teams like that, and San Antonio, they make adjustments," said Warriors forward David Lee, who had 17 points and 5 rebounds.

Lee was hurting the Celtics in the first half on pick-and-roll plays.

That all changed in the third quarter.

"They . . . stayed with me on the roll and made sure we were going to take jump shots rather than be able to get the ball to the rack, like we would in the first half," Lee said.

That defensive adjustment led to a slew of Golden State turnovers.

After forcing just three turnovers in the first half, it took the Celtics less than 90 seconds to equal that amount in the third quarter.

Those turnovers created a slew of easy scoring opportunities for Boston which finished with a season-high 30 fast-break points.

"We got stops. It's as simple as that," Rondo said. "We made a defensive run. That led to easy transition baskets."

The one big negative for the Celtics from Tuesday was the bruised left knee injury suffered by Kendrick Perkins.

Perkins, who suffered a torn MCL and PCL injury in his right knee during the NBA Finals last season, did not return to the floor after suffering the injury in the third quarter.

The injury doesn't appear to be serious, with Perkins telling CSNNE.com that he hopes the injury won't prevent him from playing in Denver on Thursday.

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

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.