Rondo, Celtics cool down after strong start

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Rondo, Celtics cool down after strong start

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

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."

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

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”