Rondo takes blame for Celtics' loss

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Rondo takes blame for Celtics' loss

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHOENIX The Boston Celtics locker room had just about emptied out.

Rajon Rondo, as has been the case frequently this season, was the last player to leave.

And on a night when so many Celtics seemed to struggle in so many ways, Rondo was the first to place a good chunk of the blame for the team's latest setback squarely upon his shoulders.

There are plenty of areas to dissect if you're trying to figure out some type of rhyme or reason for Friday's 88-71 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Not controlling the game's tempo stands out.

So do Rondo's unusually high number of turnovers.

"It starts with me," he said. "I've had back-to-back six- and seven-turnover games."

In Boston's win at Portland, Rondo had six turnovers and five assists. On Friday, he had seven turnovers and six assists.

It was the first time this season Rondo had back-to-back games in which he had more turnovers than assists. In addition, it was also just the second time this season he has had back-to-back games with single digits in assists.

When it comes to turnovers, the Celtics are quick to give credit to their opponent's play defensively.

But too many of Rondo's miscues are unforced mistakes that have been few and far between this season.

"I can't worry about turnovers I don't cause," Rondo said. "It's me."

Of course, fatigue may have been at play as well.

Boston, one of the oldest teams in the NBA, were coming off a back-to-back game while the Suns came into Friday's game having not played since Wednesday.

It might not seem like that big a deal, but an extra day of rest to prepare for a veteran team that's already playing short-handed, can be a huge advantage.

"It may have been fatigue. It may have not. We just didn't have it tonight," Rondo said.

Paul Pierce, who never looked like himself on Friday, was clearly favoring a sore right thigh injury from the previous night at Portland.

Shaquille O'Neal had returned from a three-game absence, but he made no impact in part because of early foul trouble.

Kendrick Perkins was hampered with early foul trouble as well.

And Glen Davis, one of the top reserves in the NBA this season, did not play in the second half because of a right hamstring injury. He had two points while missing four of his five shots from the field.

There were plenty of places to go if you're looking for a logical explanation for what went wrong for the Celtics.

Rondo knows this.

But the solution, in his eyes, is staring him right in the face.

"I have to look myself in the mirror," Rondo said, "and try and correct it."

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

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.