Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo

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Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Back in the 2008 Finals, as the Celtics were on the way to their first title in 22 years and Rajon Rondo (only 22 years old at the time) was still fighting to find his role alongside the Big 3, the Lakers employed unique Rondo-specific defense that gave the young point guard fits.

Basically, Phil Jackson had Kobe guard Rondo, but not really guard him. Instead, having Bryant sag off No. 9, take advantage of his faulty jumper (and confidence) and use the extra space to wreak havoc everywhere else. As Rondo stood on the perimeter, unable andor willing to shoot, Bryant hedged off screens, doubled in the post and in the process essentially rendered Rondo ineffective.

The Celtics pulled out the series, but the blueprint for limiting Rondo had been laid out.

Three years later and that defense is still a hot topic.

Expect a healthy helping as Boston and Miami take off in round two.

Youll see Chalmers and Bibby guarding Rondo, but youll also LeBron and Wade, Doc Rivers said. Theyll go to the Rondo Defense and theyll be trapping off him and helping off him, and how we handle that will be key to this series."

But Rondos come along way since the 2008 Finals. Sure, the Sag-Off-Rondo defense is still probably the best way to defend him, but its not automatic. Hes learned how to beat it or at least, play around it.

The most effective thing he can do is just move without the ball. As hes moving, LeBron or Wade or whoever cant just leave him to trap. If theyre forced to chase Rondo around (especially if he can slash through the lane), so much of their focus will be occupied there, and they can be as helpful elsewhere.

On top of staying active, Rivers highlighted some other ways for Rondo to stay effective: Getting into the offensive pace, he said. Attacking, being a pace-setter. And he does it well, I think hes handled it very well this year.

Kevin Garnett agrees.

(Rondos) gotten more confident in his style and play, he said. Hes not afraid to hit the 15-17 foot jumper and does a good job of mixing his play. Slow, fast, fast slow; he keeps defense on their heels and we need him to be aggressive all series.

When asked about the potential sagging defense, Rondo was predictably coy, hinting that well all find out the answer on Sunday.

I dont know, he said. Everybody plays different. Well see Game 1.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder. 

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Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.” 

As soon as the two made eye contact, Crowder knew it was one of the many intimidation methods used by Cousins against opposing players. 

Crowder wasn’t having it. 

“That’s my guy; he’s my guy,” Crowder said of Cousins. “He plays a lot of tactics against a lot of other players. I’ve earned that respect with him. He knows I’m going to fight him just as hard as anybody else. We leave it on the court. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve become friends, just playing ball, playing basketball the right way.”