ORLANDO -- Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said Wednesday he's feeling better after enduring muscle spasms that sent him to the locker room before halftime of Monday's Game 4.
"I'm feeling better, I'm fine," Rondo said at the Celtics' shootaround Wednesday morning at Amway Arena. "Nothing to worry about, I'll be playing."
Rondo brushed off health questions following Monday's game where he registered nine points, eight assists, and three steals over 43 minutes, quiet by his increasingly lofty playoff standards. But Rondo simply didn't seem to have the same energy and crispness that he's displayed throughout the playoffs.
Asked how he's combating the cramps, Rondo listed all the available remedies.
"Bananas, water, massages, contrast baths, and drinking pickle juice," joked Rondo, who battled flu-like symptoms earlier this season and did sound a bit nasally while addressing reporters Wednesday. Regardless, Rondo pointed to his early foul trouble as a bigger issue in his performance Monday than any health detriment.
"The one foul on Jameer [Nelson], I'm biased, but I didn't think it was a foul," Rondo said of his first-quarter reach-in. He picked up his second just six seconds later. "The second one, I had to foul Dwight [Howard] to prevent the layup... I'm just playing basketball. I don't try to foul, but if I have to take the foul [to prevent easy baskets], I'll take it."
The Celtics employed Tony Allen and oft-unused Nate Robinson in Rondo's place before bringing him back with 8:59 to go in the second quarter. Rondo dished out a trio of assists before picking up his third foul with 2:34 to play in the half.
He stayed in the game a bit longer, but finally exited with 1:15 to play in the half and that's when he retreated to the locker room with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo for what the team dubbed muscle spasms. The duo appeared back on the floor before the second half, stretching Rondo out at midcourt.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said there was no reason to be overly concerned about Rondo's health.
"No, I don't think so, I think it's just a cramp," said Rivers. "My rule is, I wait until the trainer comes to me. If he doesn't, that means he doesn't think it's that bad."
What is of concern to Rondo, Rivers, and the rest of the Celtics is the pick-and-roll defense that ate Boston alive in Game 4. Nelson wreaked havoc by often coming off staggered double screens and, when the Celtics' help defense collapsed on him, he was able to feed Howard for easy buckets (seven dunks in Game 4) or pitch to the outside for 3-pointers (10 triples on 28 attempts).
"They did it in the first three games, but they were more effective the last game," said Rivers. "They did the same thing, we just didn't do a good job of defending it. Give Jameer credit, he was far more aggressive, but it's not an adjustment. We never got into him. Now, if we get into him and he's still hurting us, then we have to make an adjustment."
Rivers noted that it's on the guards to do a better job staying in front of Nelson and not allowing dribble penetration that forces the bigs to help.
Asked what the team could do better, Rondo smiled and noted: "I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out when we go over it in the shootaround."
A few other notes from shootaround:
Pierce knows crowd will be into it: Celtics captain Paul Pierce, last seen walking off the court here after Game 2 telling fans he'd, "See them next year," is sure to catch a little grief in tonight's Game 5. He's hoping to feed off the fans. "We gotta come out and match their energy, feed off that crowd," said Pierce. "We have to be able to come out here at the start of the game and get off to a good start... That's probably the most important thing, to match their intensity, and raise ours on the road."
Look out below: What looked like large tie twists or cable ties were falling from the video board as the Celtics got ready for their morning shootaround. Workers came out and cleaned the debris from the floor, but more fell again as the team prepared to start the workout.
Bumps and bruises: Kendrick Perkins (sprained right wrist) and Tony Allen (twisted ankle) appeared no worse for the wear Wednesday. Perkins wasn't wearing any tape over his injured wrist, like he had in recent sessions, while Allen didn't appear to have any additional bracing or tape around his ankles.
Game 5 is Game 7 ... again: As he's done throughout the postseason, Pierce continues to stress the need to play each game like it's a deciding game. "We don’t want to give them a sense of confidence," said Pierce. "The way I'm looking at it, this is like Game 7."
Ball movement is key: Rivers and his players spent plenty of time noting the importance of moving the ball and not getting stagnant on offense. But Rivers also stressed spacing the floor, something the team didn't do a very good job of, particularly in late-game possessions in Game 4. "We showed them [Tuesday night on film], we didn't move the ball in stretches and, more importantly, we didn't space the floor."