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Celtics Notebook

Rondo points the way

Rajon Rondo was never too far away from Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who got his points (20) but only two assists. Rajon Rondo was never too far away from Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who got his points (20) but only two assists. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 17, 2010

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It was one thing for Rajon Rondo to kamikaze into the paint and crash into Shaquille O’Neal on his way to the rim. Dwight Howard is another type of skyscraper altogether.

In a way, it’s less productive to dive right at Orlando’s Howard than to shy away from his shot-blocking abilities.

“I’ve got to make him do his job,’’ Rondo said.

“Hopefully, I can get just above the rim, [so when] he comes to block the shot that leaves the weak-side rebound open for Perk [Kendrick Perkins] and Kevin [Garnett].’’

Rondo’s 8-point, 8-assist, 4-rebound performance in the Celtics’ 92-88 Game 1 win yesterday over the Magic wasn’t like the monster triple-double he had in Game 4 of the Cleveland series, but facing the Magic requires him to do different things, mainly trying to get a handle on point guard Jameer Nelson, who scored 20 points yesterday but notched just two assists.

“Coach [Doc Rivers] told me I have to take care of the point,’’ Rondo said. “It starts with Jameer. A lot of people talk about Dwight, but Jameer, he’s the key. He makes those guys go.’’

Nelson missed 10 of 18 shots, never able to leave his fingerprints on the game.

“He’s more of a scorer,’’ Rondo said. “He can create his own shot. You’ve got to get in his space, make him take shots over Perk.’’

With Ray Allen (25 points) and Paul Pierce (22) providing the offense, it wasn’t necessary for Rondo to put up big numbers in Game 1.

“If you game-plan for one type of guy, it seems like the other guys do a great job of [scoring],’’ Rondo said.

Crafty veteran
One of the plays that doused the Magic’s hot start to the second half was a three-shot foul Pierce drew on Nelson. Pierce was running the break, and found himself 3 or 4 feet from the 3-point line when Nelson went in to foul him. Pierce heaved up a shot, and after the officials took a look at the replay, he was awarded three free throws.

“I saw Jameer, and it looked like he was going to foul me intentionally, just to stop the break,’’ said Pierce. “Once I saw that, I wanted to get the ball up as fast as possible, without putting it on the ground, for three shots. Just the way he was looking, he was coming in to grab me. I wanted to get the ball up.’’

Pierce hit all three free throws to spark a 10-0 run.

“It’s a great-player move,’’ Rivers said. “LeBron [James] got two of them in that last series. Vince [Carter] does it as well. I don’t know how they do it. They hear the whistle and simultaneously they have the athleticism to grab the ball and throw it before [they touch the floor].

“I jokingly told our guys, I don’t think there’s 15 guys in the league that can do that. Unfortunately, Vince is one of them. Paul is one, LeBron is one.’’

Pick your poison
Facing the Celtics instead of the Cavaliers, the Magic dodged a bullet, only to run into another. With Cleveland, James was the obvious focal point. With the Celtics, it’s difficult to build a strategy around one player.

“They present different problems, that’s for sure,’’ said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “Your game plan is a little harder against Boston in the sense that you have to cover a lot more people.

“Even though it’s really hard, you just focus everything on what are we going to do with LeBron James, where with the Celtics, you’ve got all of them. Garnett. Pierce. Allen. Rondo. You’ve got a lot of people you’ve got to guard, so there’s certainly more you have to be able to defend.’’

Tough racket
After seeing the Hawks fire coach Mike Woodson and realizing the Cavaliers may yet do the same with Mike Brown, Rivers said, “It says that either Stan or I better look for a new address after this series.’’

Rivers had high praise for Woodson and Brown.

“It’s sad in both [cases],’’ Rivers said. “When you look at Woodson and what he did in Atlanta, when he took that team over and where he got them, and when you look at [Brown’s] last two years alone record-wise. It’s easier to change one. Every coach, we all learn that. It is easier to change one guy, and unfortunately that seems like what’s going on a lot, and that’s too bad, because those are two terrific coaches.’’

Days in the sun
They were never able to reach the conference finals together while with the Magic, but Rivers said he’s talked to one of his former players, Grant Hill, as his Suns prepare to face the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Injuries marred Hill’s stay in Orlando, and there was talk of Rivers luring the veteran to Boston last offseason.

“I’m very happy about that,’’ Rivers said. “He was phenomenal here for me. Obviously, he never could play [because of injuries]. He was professional. He was at every practice. It’s amazing what he tried to do. I don’t think 99 percent of the league would be playing if they had gone through what Grant Hill had gone through.’’

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

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