Rondo shows rust in return

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Rondo shows rust in return

BOSTON The Boston Celtics know they can win games without Rajon Rondo.

But around here, winning games - regular-season ones, at that - isn't enough.

Beating up on the Washingtons and the Torontos of the NBA, that's one thing. However, to enter the discussion as being a team to worry about, the C's (12-10) understand all too well that they'll need Rondo - a healthy Rondo.

The two-time All-Star had missed eight straight games because of a right wrist injury, but returned to action on Friday as the Celtics rallied for a 91-89 win.

He tallied seven points, seven assists and five rebounds in a very Rondo-like 34-plus minutes.

Coach Doc Rivers was pleased with Rondo's play, but knows it'll only get better as his health improves.

"I thought he played gingerly with his hand at times," Rivers said. "We'll assess it Saturday and see how he feels and keep going."

Paul Pierce had another big game, leading all scorers with 30 points on Friday.

And while most acknowledge that this is still Pierce's team, there's no question that having Rondo back only makes them that much tougher to deal with.

"Rondo really takes us to another level when you add him into the mix," Pierce told reporters after Friday's victory. "I said to somebody earlier, we're a playoff team without Rondo but with Rondo, we become a contender."

Pierce added, "He's our floor general. He knows the plays. It's just a different play set when he's out there because he knows the entire playbook. So there's a set of plays we run when Rondo's not in, but when he's out there it kind of expands our playbook a little bit more. So we start running plays that we haven't ran probably in the eight, nine games, and that's really what opened up Ray for those 3-pointers, a couple plays we haven't ran in probably over nine, ten games."

And while there's no way to ignore the success the C's had while he was hurt - they won six of the eight games he didn't play - you won't find any of the players or coaches lobbying for Avery Bradley to remain as the team's starting point guard which is role he served when Rondo was hurt.

Bradley told CSNNE.com that having filled in for Rondo has given him a newfound respect and appreciation for the job Rondo has done for the C's.

"It's hard being a starting point guard in the NBA," he said. "A lot of people don't know that. It's hard. You going up against good players every single night, and they're going hard every single game."

While the wrist was good enough to play on, it was clear that Rondo wasn't too comfortable about testing it out as far as durability is concerned.

"Tonight, he was kind of timid a little bit; didn't want to get his hand hurt and stuff like that," said Chris Wilcox. "He worked through it. He played hard. And we came out with a 'W.' "

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”