By A.Sherrod Blakely
MIAMI When the Boston Celtics are rolling over teams, chances are good that Rajon Rondo will get much of the praise.
And when the C's get smashed, well, you can bet there will be more than a few eyeballs staring at Rondo.
There's no question Rondo didn't have one of his better games against Miami, as the Celtics lost, 100-77.
Against the Heat, Rondo had seven points with five assists and three turnovers.
But just like Boston's wins are always bigger than Rondo, the same holds true for the losses.
Rondo's ability to attack the Miami Heat defense at the start of Sunday's game, propelled the C's to an 8-0 lead.
And then . . . it all stopped.
He wasn't driving to the basket as much, the Celtics defense was breaking down, and before you knew it, Boston was on its heels and never recovered.
After the game, Rondo explained how Boston's struggles defensively after that fast start, coupled with a slew of turnovers, made it much more difficult for him to break down the Miami defense, which is among the better ones in the NBA. Boston was also hurt by the Heat shooting better than 50 percent from the field and getting most of the "5050" balls which led to a sizable advantage in second-chance points (18-3, Miami) and fast-break points (12-3, Miami).
"It's hard to push the tempo when you turn the ball over, walking the ball up the court every time," he said. "Taking the ball out of the net. You can't get a rhythm or easy baskets because of Miami's set defense."
Coach Doc Rivers thought the Celtics, more than anything else, got away from what was working to start the game.
"We came out, and I loved what we were doing," Rivers said. "We kept the game simple. Then all of a sudden, we went in that stretch where every play had to be brilliant. Throwing lobs to J.O. Jermaine O'Neal, and cross-court passes where they are intercepted. That just gave Miami life."
And for Boston, it was pretty close to a death sentence in their hopes of securing the No. 2 seed in the East.
With the loss, the Celtics (55-25) are a game behind Miami (56-24), which finishes on the road at Atlanta and Toronto, respectively.
If the two were to finish in a tie, Boston would then get the No. 2 seed by virtue of winning the head-to-head with Miami this season.
Tie-breakers are far from on the mind of the Celtics these days.
Instead, they're more concerned about breaking out of this funk they're in, which comes on the eve of the playoffs beginning this weekend.
Boston has two games to figure out how to get on track before the games that really count, are here.
Rondo isn't so sure these two games will be enough.
But come playoff time, he has no worries.
"We'll be right when the time comes," Rondo said. "First game of the playoffs, we'll be ready."