Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
Rajon Rondo continues to successfully orchestrate the Celtics offense.BOSTON -- Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo wasn't pleased with himself at halftime of Sunday's win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite Boston's strong overall effort that had them out front by as much as 19 in the second quarter, Rondo was irked at committing five of the team's nine first-half turnovers that had led to a third of Philly's total points.
So the Celtics found a unique way to motivate him.
"He was really upset at halftime because he had the five turnovers," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I think he had a bet -- not real money -- with [assistant coach] Ty [Lue] that he’d have zero turnovers in the second half."
Sure enough, Rondo played 12 second-half minutes in which he dished out nine assists and did not turn the ball over, presumably allowing him to collect that Monopoly money from Lue. Rondo finished with 15 helpers, extending his streak with double-digit assists to 17 games. The Celtics are 11-6 in that span.
The secret to his success?
"Keeping it simple," Rivers said. "As simple as Rondo can."
Rondo got himself in trouble early in Sunday's game by getting a little too cute with his feeds, leading to turnovers that Philadelphia pounced on (for the game, the 76ers turned 18 Boston giveaways into 22 points). Rondo came out motivated in the third quarter and not only assisted on nine of Boston's 14 field goals in the frame, but chipped in two buckets of his own, including a rather ridiculous baseline fadeaway to beat the shot clock.
His reward? Rondo got the fourth quarter off as the Celtics finished off a win that puts them in the driver's seat for the Atlantic Division crown.
Rivers really likes how teammates have figured out how to thrive with Rondo in transition.
"Guys do a great job, they know when Rondo is pushing the ball up," Rivers said. "We’ve changed a little bit. Early in the year, we were always running toward Rondo to set a pick for him. Now we’re running away from Rondo and setting a pick on everybody else. And it’s been a good move by us and [the picks] are getting guys open."
[Update: Rondo detailed the bet with Lue after Sunday's game: "I bet 100 push-ups,” said Rondo. “I didn’t want to do any push-ups today, so I just decided not to turn the ball over any more.” Push-ups are becoming a popular form of currency in the Celtics' locker room as Rondo suggested Pierce owes him 1,000 of them following their bet on the Kentucky-Kansas NCAA national title game.]
A Masters-ful press conference: Doc eager to check out Bubba
An admitted golf junkie, a Sunday night game meant Rivers couldn't watch the highly entertaining final round of the Masters and the coach hilariously lamented missing the two-hole playoff in which Bubba Watson beat Louis Oosthuizen at Augusta National.
About four minutes into his postgame press conference, Rivers interrupted the start of a question and scanned the room while announcing, "Guys, you know Bubba Watson won the Masters right? On a spectacular shot out of the woods? ... I haven’t seen it yet. I want to go see it. That’s the point I’m making right here, you have two questions left."
Rivers joked he had been getting sideline updates on the tournament, but said he only learned of the thrilling finish after the team got into the locker room after the game. He politely answered a question on Boston's recent defensive dominance and another on the importance of Sunday's win before darting off to catch some Masters highlights before the team's flight to Miami.
Loose balls: Collins says don't sleep on C's in postseason
* Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, his team now fighting for a playoff berth, offered a vote of confidence about Boston's potential for success in the postseason: "I think everybody’s sort of looking at Miami and Chicago as the two teams, but I wouldn’t blink at Boston. No, absolutely not. They can defend you and they’ve got matchups. When they play Miami, one of the keys when you play Miami is that you’ve got to defend [Chris] Bosh, and they’ve got [Kevin] Garnett to do that, and that’s a huge thing for them. And you look at him, when we play him, we have no answer, and when he scores big, he gives you those three guys scoring, and I think the last time in he had two field goals. So that matchup is critical if those two teams play each other.”
* After venting following a loss in Chicago on Thursday, Rivers said he didn't believe his outburst had any real impact in the way his team responded on Saturday against Indiana: "No, I just think we played the way we’ve been playing all year. I didn’t do that for any other reason than I was frustrated. ... But I don’t think they responded to my words, or I didn’t use it that way. And if that happened, then great. We just went back to who we’ve been all year."
Said captain Paul Pierce, "He was frustrated, but we all were frustrated -- of course we were frustrated from losing a game that we all feel like was a very winnable game. As veterans we know how to respond, we know how to take our game up another level. You felt the frustration from the coach, but we felt it ourselves. Even if Doc didn’t express it, I think we would have came out and played the way we played the last couple nights.”
* Rivers on reports that Antoine Walker will retire from basketball after a failed bid to get back to the NBA by spending time with the Idaho Stampede of the D-League in each of the past two seasons, this while facing bankruptcy woes: "All that hits me. I had Antoine for a half year, so I really never got to know him really well, even though he’s a Chicago kid. But when any of that happens, to any athlete, it doesn't even have to be basketball, it always tugs at your heart, in my opinion. Because they worked so hard to get ahead, and then when things don’t go right for them, it really does, it bothers you."