Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5

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Rondo thrives under pressure of Game 5

PHILADELPHIA Typically the best players for each respective team make their way to the podium following playoff games.

For the Celtics, that was Brandon Bass after the team's Game 5 win on Monday night. But as well as Bass played, he should not have been up there by himself.

And as you listened to him extol on all that went right for him in an absolute, we-had-to-have-this-one kind of game for the C's, one name kept coming up: Rajon Rondo.

Rondo can maddening at times, for fans, his coaches and his teammates.

But in those we-gotta-have-it kind of games, there are few in the NBA who consistently step their game up like he does.

And Rondo, not one to disappoint, did just that in Game 5 with a stealth-like dominance as he finished with 13 points and 14 assists with just three turnovers.

"When they broke the game open (in the third quarter), he was the catalyst for the whole attack," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

In the third, the Celtics were trailing 57-53 when Kevin Garnett was whistled for an offensive foul.

From there, it was all Boston as the C's went on to close out the quarter with a 22-9 run and take firm control of the game, and with it, this series.

During the run, Boston made nine field goals with Rondo dropping dimes on all but two of them.

And in the fourth quarter, with the Sixers even more fearful of Rondo's passing attack, he changed his game up just a bit and become more assertive as a scorer by tallying seven points in the quarter.

No matter how you want to look at it, Rondo's imprint has been all over this series - and so far, there's nothing the Sixers have been able to do about it.

"It starts with Rondo," said Sixers forward Elton Brand. "You have to stop Rondo."

Easier said than done, especially when he's in that zone where he's finding that perfect balance between doing what he does best - getting the ball to his teammates - and managing to get some points of his own without turning the ball over too often.

"He's being aggressive, scoring lay-ups, getting into the paint," Brand added. "It leaves Kevin Garnett open for a jumper, it leaves Brandon Bass open for a jumper or a drive."

And that makes the Celtics an extremely difficult team to beat, home or on the road.

To see Rondo thrive this time of year is nothing unusual.

But as many triple-doubles as he has compiled in the postseason, as many dominant performances that he has delivered, C's coach Doc Rivers thought his play in the second half of Monday's Game 5 win was right up there with some of his best moments with the Celtics.

"The second half was one of the best games he's had this year for us," Rivers said. "I thought it was more than just the basketball part of it. I thought his will, his leadership, we needed it. And he gave it to us."

It was one of those rare nights where Rondo's words seemed just as powerful as his play, as he directed players repeatedly to get to certain spots on the floor. It was the vocal leadership that at times, Rondo has shied away from doing as much as he probably should.

"I can hear him barking at guys, demanding guys get into spots," Rivers said. "And that's not something he loves doing."

But he loves to win, and has shown time and time again the willingness to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Said Rivers: "Like I said, we needed somebody to lead us. And I thought he did a great job with it."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Should Paul George or Gordon Hayward be Celtics' priority?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Should Paul George or Gordon Hayward be Celtics' priority?

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0:41 - Should Paul George be the priority over Gordon Hayward? Is trading for one year of George better than signing Gordon Hayward long-term? Curran, Holley, Giles, Smith discuss.

4:45 - Could a Tom Brady extension be in the works? Phil Perry joins BST to discuss Dan Graziano’s article about QB contracts in the NFL. 

9:13 - Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni join from Fenway Park to talk about the message John Farrell sent to Hanley, how the bullpen was used after Chris Sale was taken out, and the rumor that the Red Sox are interested in Sonny Gray. 

15:09 - Tom Giles and Tom Curran discuss how the Suns GM Ryan McDonough might have “tampered” with Josh Jackson to prevent him from going to the Celtics. 

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.