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Celtics Notebook

Stingy Rondo throws Brooks off his game

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 20, 2010

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HOUSTON — Rajon Rondo’s eyes were glued to the flat-screen television in the visitors’ locker room last night at Toyota Center.

He was doing some pregame cramming on an opponent he knew fairly well.

He had heard about Aaron Brooks hitting at least one 3-pointer in his last 39 games, setting a Rockets record by going 7 for 7 from 3-point range Wednesday against Memphis.

He didn’t want to hear anything about Brooks after the game. So he made up his mind.

“My mentality, definitely before the game,’’ he said, “was to play defense.’’

Rondo took just five shots, focusing on hounding Brooks the entire night.

They looked like two racecars as Rondo chased Brooks wherever he went, enjoying every minute despite being drained of energy.

Brooks took just one trey and missed it, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

“Rondo was tired,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I think he wanted to come out at the six-minute mark in the third, which he never does. That’s from chasing Brooks around everywhere.’’

“It’s not exhausting,’’ Rondo said. “It’s what I look forward to. He’s one of the fastest guys to chase. It was a team effort. I tried to stay as close to him as possible. He was getting screens from every which way, so I was getting a lot of help from my teammates.’’

Rondo’s numbers — 1 for 5, 2 points, 10 assists — were almost irrelevant compared to the defense.

“I knew Brooks was hot from the three,’’ Rondo said. “I just wanted to make him take contested shots. I didn’t want to leave him open tonight. I just tried to send him in with the big guys.’’

Rondo had joked earlier in the week that the Celtics were undefeated (4-0) when he took five shots or fewer.

“It’s amazing Rondo only had 2 points tonight,’’ said Rivers. “I actually thought he was the most dominant player on the floor tonight. Whatever works.’’

Glass cleaner
When Glen Davis came into the locker room after pulling down seven rebounds (five on the offensive glass), his teammates had a nickname for him.

“They’re in there calling him Moses Malone,’’ Rivers said, “because he got five offensive rebounds. Four of them were his own misses.’’

Davis also scored 7 points in 16 minutes, sparking a bench that combined for 24 points.

“He played so hard,’’ Rivers said. “He just couldn’t get anything to go down for him. But it created fouls, it created second shots for us. So that was good. I think his energy over the last couple of weeks has been terrific.’’

Challenges ahead
The way the schedule shakes out, the Celtics have 11 games against potential playoff teams in the final four weeks of the season.

On one hand, they’ll face some of the league’s stiffest competition as they jockey for seeding.

On the other, with Rivers seeing signs of the Celtics getting closer to their early-season form, when they ran out to a 23-3 start, it’s an opportunity to test themselves and prove — more to themselves — they’re playoff caliber.

The Celtics defeated the Rockets, 94-87, last night to open the trip, and play the Mavericks and Jazz, with each team relatively hot.

The Mavericks are 13-1 since acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood at the trade deadline. The Jazz are 6-4 in March.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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