Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

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Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

BOSTON -- Rewind 48 hours.

Rajon Rondo stood in the Boston Celtics locker room following the team's fourth straight loss. He talked about the team's lack of defense and trust in one another. He didn't have an explanation for it, but knew they needed to find a solution.

On Friday night, he delivered a different message. Following the Celtics 94-75 win over the Indiana Pacers, he spoke about improved D, a collective team effort, and players stepping up on the court.

"It was a good team win for us tonight," said Rondo (18 points, seven assists, five rebounds). "We did a pretty good job defensively. I think we held them to 35 percent in the first half, forced some turnovers. I've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half, but other than that, we got what we wanted offensively. We weren't standing around tonight, we had a lot of different play calls, different guys were aggressive, and we played well together."

The Celtics improved to 15-17 and showed progress in their victory. Avery Bradley played his second game since returning from double-shoulder surgery, scoring six points in 23 minutes and giving Rondo another tenacious backcourt counterpart.

"He's the best on-ball defender in the league," Rondo said of Bradley. "I let him pick up (D.J.) Augustin and he turned the game around. His energy picked up, we got a lot of deflections in the first half, created points for our offense."

Rondo also credited the Celtics bench, who maintained the lead when Kevin Garnett was ejected (Flagrant 2 Foul) in the fourth quarter. Noteably, Courtney Lee scored 13 points in 23 minutes, Jared Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, and Leandro Barbosa chipped in six points in as many minutes.

"We're a really bad team if we couldn't hold a lead in the fourth quarter, and they didn't have their starters in either. But nevertheless, I don't want to discredit our bench," he said. "Courtney played great for us tonight, LB (Leandro Barbosa) came in and gave us some energy, and (Jared Sullinger) Sully fouled out but he played big in the stretch when he was in the game. It was a collective team effort tonight. We played great as a team and we've got to continue to build on this win."

The Celtics will face the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday, where they are looking to continue their momentum before playing the Knicks in New York on Monday. They know there is still work to be done.

"We want to build on this game," said Rondo. "But it's only one game."

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”