Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

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Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Rajon Rondo is a good defender, one of the best in the NBA.

Against point guards, he's great.

An undersized shooting guard here and there, he can more than hold his own.

But LeBron James?

James wasn't exactly Rondo'd on Sunday, but Rondo did just enough to pester James into a less-than-stellar performance that was a big part of the Celtics' 85-82 win.

No individual or team will shut James down.

He did finish with a respectable 22 points, even if he needed 21 shots to get it.

But Rondo's ball pressure forced James into doing the two things he dreads the most -- picking up his dribble and looking to score in the post.

Because Rondo's hands are so quick, James couldn't back him down while dribbling, which is what he usually does when teams put a smaller defender on him.

And on the few times he was able to get Rondo backed down into the paint, the C's came with a help defender that forced James to either stop his dribble and pass or take a contested shot.

It was . . . brilliant.

Before you start patting Celtics coach Doc Rivers on the back for having the coaching acumen to make such a bold adjustment, he's quick to tell you the truth of how the move came about.

"It was Rondo's idea," Rivers said. "I told him to pressure the ball. He took that to mean, whoever brought it up. I didn't mean that. He took it that way, and then I stayed with it."

Rondo's defense on James helped the Celtics erase a three-point deficit at the half and race ahead to a lead that peaked at 13 points two different occasions.

At the half, Rondo said Delonte West, a former teammate of James in Cleveland, was among those to tell him to try and pick up the tempo.

"The only way I could do that was pressure the ball," Rondo said.

And with the Heat, usually the ball was in James' hands.

"Rondo's a very good player," James said. "He's definitely going to pick up full court no matter who is handling the ball. He's very long. He can use his length, but it didn't bother us that much."

Yeah.

Right.

Anyway, Rondo's defense was one of the many wrinkles the Celtics threw at the Heat.

Although it was successful, the Celtics seemed poised to switch out of it during a timeout, or so some -- OK, Rondo -- thought.

"When I didn't say anything," Rivers said. "Rondo was surprised."

In addition to his defense, Rondo also picked up the tempo offensively for the Celtics.

By the end of the game, he had his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"Everything he did on both ends of the court, he went from pressuring the ball to pushing the ball, really set the tempo in the second half," said Paul Pierce.

And as Rivers sat at a podium following the win, he still hadn't made heads or tails as to how it all worked.

"That matchup makes no sense, honestly," Rivers said.

Maybe not, but it's impact was undeniable.

"It gave us life, because he was trying so hard, working so hard, it forced everyone else to join in," Rivers said.

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

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”