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Rondo is taking his shots

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 28, 2010

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The Magic have made it their mission the last two games to establish themselves as the aggressors in the Eastern Conference finals, and as part of that, Dwight Howard has made it is job to pound Rajon Rondo.

Rondo left his footprints all over the paint in the first three games, all Celtic wins. But in Games 4 and 5, the 6-foot-11-inch Howard made Rondo pay when he came into the lane.

The price often has been a message-sending shove, like the one Rondo received early in Game 5 Wednesday night. Rondo weaved through the lane, driving hard at a backpedaling Vince Carter, thinking he had a look at a fast-break layup.

But Howard chased him down, smacking the attempt off the backboard for the first of his five blocks. Howard then planted Rondo with two hands to the back.

Asked after the game about Howard’s physicality, Rondo said, “I can’t really answer that question, honestly. That’s just Dwight. They let him do what he does.’’

Rondo dealt with a brick wall in the second round against the Cavaliers, constantly crashing into Shaquille O’Neal. He said Howard wouldn’t make him any less aggressive.

“I’m going to attack regardless, I don’t really care,’’ said Rondo. “Shaq, he’s going to foul me way harder than Dwight. So I’m always going to play my game and attack the rim.’’

Rondo’s frustrations reached a boiling point Wednesday night when he drew an uncharacteristic technical foul in the third quarter. Coach Doc Rivers expressed concern over the pounding Rondo is taking.

“It’s something that we have sent to the league, I can tell you that,’’ Rivers said. “Rajon has taken a bunch of head shots just because, the clean block, the follow-through part of that is still a foul.

“For Rajon, he just has to stay physical and keep playing the way he plays. I don’t think Rajon is going to stop doing what he does.’’

Ticked off with techs
Rivers wasn’t completely pleased with the league’s review of Kendrick Perkins’s two technicals in Game 5, and at the same time he didn’t give his center a pass, considering the two had talked before the game about Perkins being in danger of a suspension for an accumulation of postseason technicals.

Perkins’s lack of self-control has been an issue all season. He was sitting on 14 technicals (one shy of a mandatory one-game suspension) with 12 games left in the season, and kept himself in check. But on Wednesday night, knowing he was two technicals shy of a one-game ban, he didn’t show the same restraint.

“Perk created the problem as far as his emotional overloads where he’s allowed himself to get to this,’’ Rivers said. “In some ways, Perk obviously has to clean up his emotions, but it’s a fine line. You need him to be emotional as a player.’’

Rivers’s complaint is that double technicals (as Perkins’s first was on Wednesday night) are often used by officials as an easy remedy to a confrontation between two players, and in the postseason they end up penalizing the teams that advance.

“These double technicals for me are just an easy way to try to control the game,’’ Rivers said.

With Perkins having one of his Wednesday night technicals rescinded, the Celtics have 25 this postseason. The closest team is Orlando with 20.

“We have some very emotional players, and we knew that coming into the year,’’ Rivers said. “We’ve talked about it. But people aren’t going to change, for the most part.

“We have Rasheed [Wallace], very emotional. We have Kendrick Perkins, very emotional. We have Kevin Garnett, very emotional. And you could make the case with all three, their emotions are what has allowed them to be good players.

“Does it hurt the team at times? Yeah, there is no doubt about that.’’

Foul ball
The league upgraded Paul Pierce’s fourth-quarter foul on J.J. Redick in Game 5 to a flagrant-1. Although he disagreed, Rivers said he wasn’t worried about Pierce. “That’s not going to be a big deal,’’ Rivers said. “Paul’s not going to be a guy that is going to have a lot of flagrant fouls. I don’t think we have to worry about him getting to that number, that silly number.’’ . . . The Hornets haven’t offered Celtics associate head coach Tom Thibodeau their head job, and Rivers said the constant rumblings haven’t been a distraction. “I’m hoping they do [offer him the job] soon,’’ Rivers said. “I told you he’s terrific, and he works his butt off. There’s nobody that’s going to work harder than Tom Thibodeau, ever. And he’s never going to be distracted from his job. That’s the one guy I have no concern with.’’

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

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