Celtics

Rondo has playoff game for the ages despite Celtics loss

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Rondo has playoff game for the ages despite Celtics loss

MIAMI When the final horn sounded, there was nothing else Rajon Rondo could do.

You always hear about players leaving everything they had on the floor. More often than not, it's just talk.

With Rondo on Wednesday night?

It was the truth.

The 6-foot-1 point guard delivered the kind of performance that's seldom seen in the NBA.

But as impressive as Rondo's night was, it was a bittersweet experience as the Celtics lost, 115-111, in overtime.

Rondo didn't just lead all players - he lapped them - in scoring a career-high 44 points on 16-for-24 shooting. And once again, he was flirting with a 10th playoff career triple-double, but fell short with 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"He had a great game," said Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus. "That's the way we want him to play. He was doing everything."

Actually, Rondo doing everything has been a pretty common refrain for the Celtics' playmaker all season.

But on Wednesday, it was different.

Not only did he dominate most of every minute he was on the floor, he actually wound up playing every single minute of the game.

Rondo had the attention and respect of all the Heat players and coaching staff heading into Wednesday night's game.

But the performance he put on seems to have been even greater than anything they had imagined.

"Rondo was absolutely amazing," said Miami's LeBron James. "He made all the plays and tried to will his team to a victory. He showed tonight why he's an all-pro and one of the superstars in this league. He's an unbelievable player. He gave everything he had tonight."

And as good as it was, it still wasn't enough for the Celtics to even this series at 1-1 and with that, assume home court advantage.

That's why the fact that it's one of the greatest games ever played by a Celtic player in the playoffs, has little to no importance to Rondo at this time.

"It's irrelevant," he said. "We lost. It's as simple as that."

Rondo's comments are not at all surprising.

He has maintained for years that individual accolades will always take a back seat to winning games.

"You know, it's tough to have him play that way and not win the game," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Because he did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game."

And that only adds to the disappointment and frustration the Celtics feel, knowing that they let a very winnable game slip away from them.

Rivers said the sting of Wednesday's loss will last around 24 hours for his players.

After that, it's on to the next game.

"It's corny, but they've won two games at home, and now we go to a place that we're comfortable in, and we have to win two games at home," Rivers said. "Then we'll see from there."

Well aware that the officiating would once again be a talking point after the game, Rivers was quick to place the blame for Wednesday's loss squarely on him and his players.

"We just have to play better," he said. "We're not going to blame we have to play better. And we will."

It's hard to imagine Rondo would be close to having as big an impact in Game 3 as he did in Wednesday's Game 2 loss. But if he does struggle, he won't place the blame on fatigue - he played all 53 minutes on Wednesday - or anything like that.

"I wanted to play every minute," Rondo said. "I thought I didn't hurt my team by me playing every minute. I wanted to go out there and continue to do my best for my team."

He did just that on Wednesday, coming up with the kind of performance that ranks among the all-time greats not just with the Celtics, but in playoff lore as well.

"He is an incredible talent," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "He is doing some things that only elite players have done."

To see Rondo evolve into the kind of player that can take over not just a playoff game - but an Eastern Conference finals game - speaks volumes as to how much he has grown and learned from the Big Three that's now the Big Four with him included.

"We feed off what he's doing now," said C's guard Ray Allen.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE