Rondo outsmarts them all in Celtics' win over Sixers

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Rondo outsmarts them all in Celtics' win over Sixers

BOSTON -- Try to get past Rajon Rondo's triple-double. It's a story, but not the story.

When the final buzzer sounded, Rondo's stat line was 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 17 assists. Fine. Rondo hit some extremely clutch jump shots in the fourth quarter, and turned into the Rondo we all "ooo" and "aww" at. But perhaps the two biggest plays of Rondo's night don't affect his numbers at all.

With about eight seconds remaining in the game and the C's up three points, Paul Pierce rose up and tried to seal the game. The shot came up short and the 76ers recovered. Racing down the court in transition, it looked as though they were going to get a good look at a three before time expired.

We yelled, we were yelling, Foul! Foul! Foul!," Doc Rivers said after the game.

A foul occurred on Jrue Holiday, with just over three seconds to play.

I didnt hear Rivers honestly," Rondo, who committed the foul, said. "I didnt hear anything. I was just trying to make the right decision. I didnt try to over-think the game but at the same time I got a quick flash about how they beat Chicago the other day. You know off a rebound they didnt call a time out they just pushed the ball up the floor and we were in kind of a scramble defense, so I thought just to foul.

The heads-up play by Rondo that had his coach raving about his smarts may have saved the game for the C's. Keyon Dooling, an NBA veteran guard who's been blown away by Rondo since he joined the team this season, is just as impressed with his knowledge as he is by his skill.

"I think sometimes his basketball intellect is overshadowed by some of his moments," Dooling said. "He's the smartest person in our game. If you look, he's a coach on the floor. I watched him the whole last five possessions and he was just coaching everybody. It kind of reminded me of Doc, the way he was calling each person, getting the eye contact, telling them what to do, telling them what to look for. It's pretty amazing to see him on the court. He's not so quiet and reserved when he's dictating policy on the court."

Rondo's stamp on the game wasn't finished yet though. Holiday hit both free throws and the C's called timeout. The Sixers had a foul to give, which meant it wasn't necessary to find Allen or Pierce. So what did Doc Rivers do? Draw up a play for (who else?) Rondo to receive the inbounds.

The hope, according to Pierce, was that it would "probably take a second off" the clock. Then Rondo would inbound it. "...but he used his speed, his intelligence and he ran out the clock. I thought it was a great play.

It was a good play," Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. "To run off the clock, we were expecting them toget it in the front court and get a foul. But I think we could have done a better job of scoping it out, with Paul (Pierce) taking it out of bounds. With him being a clutch free throw shooter, you kind of figured something was up. Doc does a really good job of drawing plays up to end the games. You can put that in one of his all time plays, it was a good play."

Asked about the triple-double after the game, Rondo said, "I didnt think I would play the way I played tonight. I didnt get a nap today so I didnt know what to expect. But I was struggling with my shot early, and I was turning the ball over, so I was trying to do the intangibles, and do everything I could to help my team. And I came up with some rebounds, I came up with some assists, and it just happened to be a triple double tonight.

Rondo may have missed his nap earlier, but his awareness and speed late in the game put the Sixers to bed.

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.

Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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