Rondo's incredible return sparks Celts to victory

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Rondo's incredible return sparks Celts to victory

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Doc Rivers was ready to move on.

Rajon Rondo had what team doctors said was a dislocated elbow, and would be lost for the fourth quarter - and maybe the rest of the series - against Miami.

And then Rondo did what Rondo seems to always do - come up with the unexpected.

About 30 seconds after being told Rondo was done, there was Rondo back in the huddle.

"And it looked like he was going to play," Rivers said.

The C's medical staff gave Rondo the clearance to return to action and see if he could play.

"And that's what he did," Rivers said.

Did he ever.

Rondo's 6-point, 11-assist night doesn't do justice to the impact he had on the Celtics defeating the Miami Heat, 97-81.

His ability to return to the floor after what appeared to be a gruesome, potentially season-ending injury, provided just the kind of emotional spark the Celtics needed in what was clearly a must-win game.

Boston now trails the best-of-seven series, 2-1. Game 4 will be at the Garden on Monday, with Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday.

Kevin Garnett went into 2004 MVP mode with 28 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Pierce, still nursing a left Achilles strain, had 27 points for the C's.

As well as KG and Pierce played, their strong performances were overpowered by Rondo's return to the floor when all indications were he would be out for some time.

The injury occurred in the third quarter when Rondo and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade got tangled up, eventually resulting in Rondo falling backwards.

He tried to brace his fall, but the momentum from his tussle with Wade resulted in his left elbow bending awkwardly.

After the play, Wade was booed every time he touched the ball.

"It's a physical game; the game of basketball is a physical game," said Wade, who had a sub-par night with 23 points on 8-for-19 shooting from the field. "I'm not a dirty player, it's physical. Everyone falls to the ground, everybody gets hurt, people get up."

Rondo didn't know the severity of the injury at first, but he knew it was something he would not be able to shake off with ease.

"I knew right away something was wrong when I went down," Rondo said. "But thank God for Kevin because I was having trouble breathing. I was worried about my elbow, but I was having trouble breathing. I kept hearing Garnett tell me to breathe."

It's a fitting image when you consider Saturday's win essentially breathed life into the C's fading chances of winning this series.

"That was a championship-caliber response," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "No other real way to put it. They came out and played extremely hard.They played harder than us and played more efficiently than us."

Especially the Celtics' Big Three of Pierce (21 points), Garnett (28 points, 18 rebounds) and Ray Allen (15 points).

The C's opened with an 18-7 run, with all 18 points scored by the Big Three.

But bench play was once again a challenge that the C's seemed to struggle with most of the game.

Even the return of Shaquille O'Neal did little to help a second unit that continues to squander leads built up by the starters.

Miami's Joel Anthony continues to be the best non-starter in this series with his hustle, rebounding and on Saturday, scoring. He finished with 12 point and 11 rebounds off the Heat bench.

Miami led by as many as six points in the second quarter primarily behind the multiple possessions they were able to get - and points - from Anthony.

But the Celtics are a desperate team, all too aware that Saturday's Game 3 matchup was a must-win game.

That's why players were giving their all, with some like Rondo giving more than anyone could expect or anticipate.

"Shorty Rondo is a really tough, young individual and I don't know what he's going to be like when he's 35, but right now he's playing through a lot," Garnett said. "He's showing a lot of heart and a lot of grit. We see it. That doesn't go unspoken or unseen. We see he's out there giving his full effort. We're following his lead."

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

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

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Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
 
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
 
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
 
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
 
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
 
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
 
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
 
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
 
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
 
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
 
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
 
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
 
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
 
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
 
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
 
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
 
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
 
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
 
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
 
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
 
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
 
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
 
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
 
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender. 

Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

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Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his son, Austin Ainge, the team’s director of player personnel, will be in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender, the potential No. 3 pick in the draft, the Boston Herald reported. 

Bender, a 7-foot-1, 18-year-old from Croatia, won’t be playing in games this weekend but will be practicing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Bender is a bench player for Maccabi, averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Still, his size and potential to develop  have him projected to go as high as No. 3.

Here’s CSN’s scouting report of Bender.

Danny Ainge was in Croatia earlier this week scouting 6-11 Ante Zizic. 

 

Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

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Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

There’s a high likelihood the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel in connection with the June 23 draft, in which the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, ESPN’s Chad Ford reported.

The Celtics, who have the No. 3 pick, have been rumored to be willing to part with it in a deal that includes Okafor.

Ford said in an interview with Philadelphia-area radio station ESPN 97.3:

You will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers are expected to choose LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram with the top pick.  Ford and Marc Stein also reported Philly’s willingness to deal Okafor or Noel in this ESPN article. 

As a deal with the Celtics for the No. 3 pick, Ford told 97.3:

Absolutely…If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.