Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

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Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Rajon Rondo is a good defender, one of the best in the NBA.

Against point guards, he's great.

An undersized shooting guard here and there, he can more than hold his own.

But LeBron James?

James wasn't exactly Rondo'd on Sunday, but Rondo did just enough to pester James into a less-than-stellar performance that was a big part of the Celtics' 85-82 win.

No individual or team will shut James down.

He did finish with a respectable 22 points, even if he needed 21 shots to get it.

But Rondo's ball pressure forced James into doing the two things he dreads the most -- picking up his dribble and looking to score in the post.

Because Rondo's hands are so quick, James couldn't back him down while dribbling, which is what he usually does when teams put a smaller defender on him.

And on the few times he was able to get Rondo backed down into the paint, the C's came with a help defender that forced James to either stop his dribble and pass or take a contested shot.

It was . . . brilliant.

Before you start patting Celtics coach Doc Rivers on the back for having the coaching acumen to make such a bold adjustment, he's quick to tell you the truth of how the move came about.

"It was Rondo's idea," Rivers said. "I told him to pressure the ball. He took that to mean, whoever brought it up. I didn't mean that. He took it that way, and then I stayed with it."

Rondo's defense on James helped the Celtics erase a three-point deficit at the half and race ahead to a lead that peaked at 13 points two different occasions.

At the half, Rondo said Delonte West, a former teammate of James in Cleveland, was among those to tell him to try and pick up the tempo.

"The only way I could do that was pressure the ball," Rondo said.

And with the Heat, usually the ball was in James' hands.

"Rondo's a very good player," James said. "He's definitely going to pick up full court no matter who is handling the ball. He's very long. He can use his length, but it didn't bother us that much."

Yeah.

Right.

Anyway, Rondo's defense was one of the many wrinkles the Celtics threw at the Heat.

Although it was successful, the Celtics seemed poised to switch out of it during a timeout, or so some -- OK, Rondo -- thought.

"When I didn't say anything," Rivers said. "Rondo was surprised."

In addition to his defense, Rondo also picked up the tempo offensively for the Celtics.

By the end of the game, he had his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"Everything he did on both ends of the court, he went from pressuring the ball to pushing the ball, really set the tempo in the second half," said Paul Pierce.

And as Rivers sat at a podium following the win, he still hadn't made heads or tails as to how it all worked.

"That matchup makes no sense, honestly," Rivers said.

Maybe not, but it's impact was undeniable.

"It gave us life, because he was trying so hard, working so hard, it forced everyone else to join in," Rivers said.

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

All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

NEW ORLEANS – You don’t rack up triple doubles at a historically ridiculous rate the way Russell Westbrook does without being able to dish out an assist from time to time.

The biggest assist he made in the 66th annual NBA all-star didn’t make its way on to the stats sheet.

But it was historical in so many ways.

Westbrook’s advice to Anthony Davis on how to win the game’s MVP award was indeed taken to heart with Davis winning the award following the Western Conference’s 192-182 win over the East All-Stars.

Davis finished with a game-high 52 points, shattering the previous mark set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Davis won the MVP award after Westbrook had won it each of the two previous All-Star games.

Prior to the game, Davis said he did do a little lobbying among his fellow all-stars in the locker room.

“I stressed that, I think more than enough, to the guys in the locker room before the game that I wanted to get the MVP for this crowd, for this city, and I ended up doing it.”

Following the game, Westbrook acknowledged that he did speak with Davis about how to win the MVP award.

When asked about what he said, Westbrook replied, “I’m not going to tell you, but he did a good job and got it done.”

Despite not winning the MVP award, Westbrook had a dominant game of his own as he tallied 41 points which was one point shy of the previous record.

But after the game, it was clear that he was more pleased with the performance of Davis.

“It was great,” Westbrook said. “It’s definitely always a great thing to do, especially here where he plays in front of his fans, his family. It’s a great experience and definitely happy for him.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 66th annual NBA all-star game.

 

STARS

Anthony Davis

The hometown team’s best player delivered a scoring night for the ages, finishing with an All-Star record 52 points on 26-for-39 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. The previous record of 42 points was set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Russell Westbrook

His All-Star reign as the game’s MVP came to an end after having won the award the previous two All-Star games. He finished with 41 points.

 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

He was an above-the-rim monster, scoring 30 points primarily on a dozen dunks.

Kevin Durant

He was filling up the stat sheet in several categories for the West, finishing with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving

Arguably the best performer for the East, Irving had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas

There were others who had a more prolific night shooting the ball, but Thomas’ impact off the bench was indeed felt. He led all East reserves with 20 points.

James Harden

The bearded one had a triple-double as well, although not the kind he would prefer. Along with scoring 12 points, and dishing out 12 assists, Harden also racked up a game-high 10 turnovers.

 

DUDS

None

There were some guys who didn’t do much statistically, but with this being such an exhibition-like event, putting too much stock in any player’s performance is a waste of time. They are among the top 24 or so players in the NBA. No amount of missed shots or turnovers will change that fact.

Stevens: Coaching NBA All-Star game a special opportunity

Stevens: Coaching NBA All-Star game a special opportunity

A. Sherrod Blakely goes one-on-one with Brad Stevens after he coaches his first NBA All-Star Game.