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Unfazed Rondo is in great company

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 11, 2010

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WALTHAM — His television was already on ESPN when he woke up yesterday. Save for the occasional highlights of the Suns sweeping the Spurs, the conversation generally revolved around Rajon Rondo.

The 97-87 victory he carried the Celtics to Sunday in Game 4 at the Garden. The triple-double he posted. The names he joined in NBA history.

The only players to put up numbers similar to Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists in a postseason game are Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.

Rondo, 24, couldn’t really appreciate the company he joined.

“I don’t know because I’ve never really seen those guys play,’’ Rondo said yesterday at practice. “I know who Wilt Chamberlain is. I know who Oscar Robertson is. But I’ve never seen them play a game. All I know is Wilt wore No. 13. I don’t even know what number Oscar wore.’’

Celtics coach Doc Rivers chimed in, “I think Wilt was pretty good. Getting 36 rebounds . . . I think we had 31 the other day as a team.’’

Rondo was more of a sports savant than a student.

“I didn’t grow up watching basketball,’’ he said. “Never did my homework or history or all that stuff. For me to see that on ESPN, my name and Wilt, it’s definitely an honor and a compliment but maybe I don’t understand the magnitude of what I did. Right now I’m just trying to win the series.’’

The Celtics tied their Eastern Conference series with the Cavaliers at two games apiece.

“I didn’t want to have a game like that and then lose,’’ Rondo said. “That’s the worst feeling I’ve had. Had a triple-double and then lost. It’s like, ‘What more can you do to help your team win?’ But when you do that and then win, it’s like you did it all.

“You can do all that and still lose. If Tony Allen didn’t play the way he played, Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] made the dunk . . . It reminds you it’s a team game.’’

As far as an encore performance, Rondo tried to temper expectations.

“I didn’t go into it with the mind-set that I need to get a triple-double or a crazy triple-double,’’ he said. “It was just doing the little things. Get to the loose balls, dive on the floor, take charges, be helpful to my teammates.

“I’ve just got to stay humble. That’s just one game. I’m sure I won’t do it again Game 5, so hopefully the expectations aren’t too high. I just go out there and play. It’s just one game. It happened to be one of those special nights. But the best thing is we got the win.’’

A team player
No regrets for Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Despite not playing in Cleveland’s last three playoff games, the veteran center is glad he returned to the Cavaliers after being traded in February.

“I would do it again,’’ he said. “This is my team. Coming in, I knew what the roster would look like. That’s where I wanted to be. Didn’t matter if I played 20 minutes, 40, or if I got a DNP, I would have still picked here.’’

Ilgauskas hasn’t seen action since Game 1, when he played just more than five minutes.

“Obviously everybody wants to play, but like I said before, we’ve got a lot of good players on this team,’’ Ilgauskas said. “I always was a team-first player.’’

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said the 12-year veteran could play in tonight.

“He’s played well against Boston [in the past],’’ Brown said. “. . . Everybody just has to stay ready because at any given time, anybody’s number can be called.’’

Brown said second-year forward J.J. Hickson played his way into the rotation after scoring 11 points and 13 points, respectively in the first two games of the series.

“He played well in Game 3,’’ Brown said. “We won the game so I went back to J.J. [Sunday].’’

Hickson had 5 points and three rebounds in Game 3, but didn’t score in Game 4.

Ilgauskas was part of a three-team deal before the Feb. 18 trade deadline that sent him to Washington and brought Antawn Jamison to Cleveland.

After the Wizards bought out Ilguauskas’s $11.5 million contract, he waited the league-mandated 30 days and, as expected, resigned with Cleveland in March.

The 7-foot-3-inch center has only scored 5 points total in five playoff games this season.

Running start
The Celtics were able to run in Game 4 for the first time all series, sprinting for 23 fast-break points, the highest total in four games against the Cavaliers. Cleveland’s 40 missed shots fueled the breakouts. “We can’t run without the ball,’’ Rivers said. “We can’t run if they score every time and we’re taking the ball out. We can’t run if we’re fouling them every time and they’re shooting free throws. And we can’t run if they’re getting second shots. Those three things we’ve got to try to stop. We’ve got to get multiple stops; it means we get multiple times when we’re going to run the floor.’’

Gary Washburn and Frank Dell’apa of the Globe staff contributed. Globe correspondent Duane Rankin contributed from Independence, Ohio.

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