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Celtics notebook

They’re free, but not so easy

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 12, 2010

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There was a point when Rajon Rondo started to shoot free throws as if he knew they were going in.

He had gone through his share of trouble at the stripe during the regular season, but in the Celtics’ first nine playoff games he knocked down 40 of 52 attempts. In the second round against Cleveland, Rondo went to the line 14 times in Game 1, and he knocked down 12. The Cavaliers put him on the line 16 times in Game 4, and he drained 11.

Since then, though, Rondo’s accuracy from the stripe hasn’t been the same. He has missed 31 of 58 free throws in the last 12 games. In the Finals he’s 4 for 15. Coach Doc Rivers said, for a brief point in the series, it affected Rondo’s aggressiveness.

Rivers said Rondo didn’t attack the rim as much in the Celtics’ Game 3 loss because he was misfiring from the line. In Game 4, though, he didn’t let the free-throw shooting weigh on him. Rondo missed his only two attempts in Game 4, which came midway through the second quarter.

“I thought in Game 3 when he missed a couple, he stopped driving, and that’s what happens when you miss free throws and then you don’t want to get fouled anymore,’’ Rivers said yesterday. “I thought [Thursday] night he kept taking it to the basket, and for me that was huge.’’

In the past, Rivers said, Rondo might have strayed from driving altogether just to avoid free throws.

“That’s how much he’s grown,’’ Rivers said. “A year ago or two years ago, that may have been the last layup of the series, you know, and [Thursday] night in the third quarter he came out, he was aggressive, he was attacking, and that’s who he has to be.

“The free throws are a go for him. I think he was basically saying that to himself: ‘I’m going to go in here and get fouled and make my free throws.’ That might have been the best sign of the night for me for him because that showed me that he was going to be aggressive the rest of the series.’’

Rivers said most of Rondo’s problems at the line are mechanical and correctable. Rondo spent last summer working on his jump shot with former NBA marksman Mark Price.

“We’re going to work on it,’’ Rivers said. “He knows what he’s not doing, we know what he’s not doing. There’s certain things that he has to do. [It’s] nothing that he can’t be taught, I can tell you that. He fell away. His elbow was out. The first one [Thursday night] you could see it right away. So we’ll get it back.’’

Return targeted
The Celtics have remained mum on the potential free agency of Ray Allen, but Rivers said yesterday that he wants the sharpshooter to return. The five-year deal that Allen signed in 2005 while with Seattle expires July 1, and he will become an unrestricted free agent.

“I think I’ve said in the middle of the year, hopefully we sign Ray back,’’ Rivers said. “I think I can say that, if not I just got fined [for tampering].’’

Allen said several times this season he would like to remain in Boston and understands he could be offered considerably less than the $19.7 million he is earning this season. Rivers’s comments were the organization’s first on the subject.

Allen is averaging 16.3 points this postseason, shooting 40 percent from the arc.

Grabbing control
A simple observation: The team that’s had the rebounding edge has won each game. For the series, the Lakers have a 158-151 edge in rebounds, but the Celtics have a 45-41 advantage on the offensive glass . . . No rest for the rookies going into Game 5 tomorrow night. Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney were the only players who had to work yesterday. “I told the team, ‘Everyone has the day off except for two,’ and they knew who the two were, they didn’t even ask,’’ Rivers said. “They went right to the facility this morning and they’re already working out.’’

Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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