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Celtics notebook

Rondo defends turf

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / May 30, 2012
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MIAMI - Rajon Rondo defended his call for stronger physical play from the Celtics.

“You go to the hole, you’re going to get fouled,’’ Rondo said Tuesday. “You’re going to hit the deck. I didn’t say flagrant these guys, I didn’t say undercut, take them out, play dirty. It’s just basketball, you know?

“I don’t think nobody’s going to punk anybody. You can’t; you’ll get fined. There’s only so much you can do as far as acting like a tough guy. We’ve just got to play smart basketball and try to find a way to win a game.’’

Rondo played all but two minutes of the first three quarters, then stayed on the court until the final 1:41 of garbage time in the 93-79 loss to the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday.

Coach Doc Rivers is emphasizing the Celtics’ inside defense as a way to unleash Rondo.

“Protecting the paint,’’ Rivers said of the team’s top priority. “If we do that, our offense will be much better because that means we’re getting stops, and multiple stops, and we’re running.

“Part of the reason we didn’t run much is because they scored or they got offensive rebounds and layups. We have to get multiple stops so we can get Rondo in transition.’’

Rivers cited preventing layups as part of the defensive strategy.

“But that doesn’t mean physical as far as we’re going to start fouling and knocking people down,’’ Rivers said.

Danger zone

The Celtics’ 35-25 advantage in the second quarter was an anomaly, as they were outscored, 68-44, in the other three quarters. Rivers credited the effectiveness of his “small lineup’’ in the second quarter.

“I take more out of the other three quarters,’’ Rivers said. “As poorly as those quarters were played, there were a lot of things we did well.

“But we just didn’t finish. We didn’t finish the possession offensively. We didn’t get rebounds, we missed point-blank layups in those same stretches. We have to get more multiple stops so we can run.’’

Rivers on the Celtics’ zone defense: “I thought we were lucky. We stopped them six out of seven [possessions] but they missed five wide-open shots.

“I think our zone will play a part in this series but not if we play it like we played it last night. I told our guys that was a horrendous zone; they will score if we play it that way. So, we have to be better in a lot of areas.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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