The Boston Celtics: This is Rajon Rondo's team now

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Thumbnail image for rondo_layup.jpgThe Big Three. KG, PP and Ray Allen. The veteran All-Stars who got together to return Boston to glory. The men that hung a new banner in the Garden two years ago. Three men now part of Celtics lore.

This is not their team any more. This is Rajon Rondo’s team.

If they are going to beat the Cavaliers and crush the Finals dreams of David Stern and Nike executives, it will be because of Rondo, with help from the big three. One of the OG NBA bloggers — Jeff Clark at CelticsBlog —  hit the nail on the head.

After a while you just knew.  It wasn’t a matter of “if” he would take the reigns form the Big 3 so much as it was “when.”

Ray Allen has already accepted his role as a (very good) 2nd option and long distance assassin.  Kevin Garnett has predictably been slow to accept the reality of his once freakish body becoming mortal again.  Paul Pierce still walks with the swagger of an alpha dog, but hasn’t been able to stop the trend of “two steps forward, one step back.”  As a collective group they are still formidable and many times they still take turns playing the hero. But none of them would be blessed with the opportunity to extend their legacies right now if not for Rajon Rondo.

Rondo leads this team because it starts on defense for him. This is a long, lanky defender who gets steals, disrupts passing lanes and contests everything. He has thrown the Cavaliers offensive attack off balance for stretches of this series (the Cavaliers have done it to themselves for other stretches). Rondo was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for a reason.

On offense, he brings much needed speed for easy baskets in transition to the team (Boston got 16 shot attempts up in transition in Game 4, making 10 of them). He is the guy who can penetrate off the dribble and break down the other team, force their defense to lose its shape. He is the energy a veteran team needs.

It took a while. Rondo had to earn this. Last season in the playoffs the Big Three could not see Rondo as a team leader. He was not consistent, not ready Celtics coach Doc Rivers told Yahoo.

“To me, what Rondo has done is this: He’s done it with his play, and he’s done it with his actions. That allows people to buy in, because they have to buy in. You have to sell that to three guys like that. They have to believe in you all the time. That took a lot of work by Rondo. Last year was up and down – even in the playoffs it was up and down.

“This year it’s been constant, and I think that’s been the biggest swing. If you can convince Kevin Garnett to follow you, then you’ve done a hell of a job. And Kevin believes in him.”

He’s ready now. And he may be ready to lead the Celtics to the biggest upset of these playoffs.

Watch LeBron James miss a wide open dunk against the Celtics in Game 4 (VIDEO)

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LeBron James did not have a good first half on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star had four fouls in the first half, the first time that had ever happened according to ESPN.

Things were not going well for James when he went up for a dunk with nary a defender in front of him and he still wound up being unable to convert the bucket.

This is something you don’t see every day.

Via Twitter:

Of course, thanks to a 23-point quarter by Kyrie Irving the missed dunk didn’t seem to mean much. LeBron’s playoff entry to Shaqtin’ A Fool will be duly noted.

Meanwhile, the Kyrie Irving saved the Cavaliers in Game 4 with a 42-point effort. The Cavaliers beat the Celtics, 112-99, and will have a chance to close the series Thursday night in Boston in Game 5.

Kyrie Irving scores 23 in third quarter, saves Cavaliers in Game 4 win over Celtics

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The Boston Celtics led by as many as 16 points, but Kyrie Irving‘s 23-point third quarter sparked a Cleveland Cavaliers comeback that the visiting squad could never match. With LeBron James struggling early, Irving’s incredible play helped Cleveland grab a win in Game 4, 112-99.

James was the big storyline as the game opened, as the King again struggled with scoring. James got himself into foul trouble hilariously early, racking up his fourth foul in the second quarter. It was the first time in his career that James had four fouls in the first half, and it hamstrung the Cavaliers.

Boston continued their effective play on offense, seemingly less predictable with Isaiah Thomas out with a hip injury. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were the stars for the Celtics, but after an incredible Game 3 performance Marcus Smart failed to deliver.

Irving’s big third quarter was of course the main storyline of the game, with the star guard going nuts on Celtics defenders with a bevy of crossovers, twisting layups, and pull up 3-pointers. He did all this after rolling his ankle, seemingly using the adrenaline to fight off both injury and a series tie at 2-2. Irving’s 23-point quarter fueled a 40-point period for Cleveland, helping them turn the tables and take a 7-point lead going into the fourth.

LeBron seemed to reactivate off Irving’s stellar play, and he wound up scoring 34 points on 15-of-27 shooting, adding six assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block. Irving finished with 42 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range to go along with four assists and three rebounds.

Boston was led by Bradley, who scored 19 points but went just 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Crowder added 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Al Horford dropped 16 points, seven assists, and three rebounds.

Cleveland now has a chance to put us out of our misery and close this series in Boston in Game 5 on Thursday.

If the Cavaliers do close, the big questions that remain will be whether LeBron can perform steadily and if the Cavaliers have what it takes on defense to slow down the Golden State Warriors.

Celtics G Isaiah Thomas visits specialist, surgery undecided

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CLEVELAND (AP) Boston Celtics star guard Isaiah Thomas has visited one hip specialist and plans to see others.

Thomas, who is done for the season with a right hip injury he sustained in March and aggravated in the playoffs, told Celtics coach Brad Stevens that he intends to get “one or two more opinions” before a course of action is set. It’s possible Thomas could undergo surgery on his hip. The Celtics have described Thomas’ condition as a tear in his hip.

Stevens reiterated before Game 4 that Thomas will not play again this season, even if the Celtics push the defending champion Cavaliers beyond five games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Thomas was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason on Saturday, ending his inspiring playoff run following the tragic death of his younger sister.

Stevens said Thomas told him he’s still sore and there is still significant inflammation in his hip.

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

J.R. Smith takes daughter Dakota, born premature, home from NICU for first time (PHOTO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith‘s daughter Dakota received some good news on Tuesday. The 5-month-old Dakota had spent her entire life at the NICU at a local hospital, but before the Cavaliers took on the Boston Celtics Smith was able to take Dakota home for the first time.

The news came amid some good news as of late, including Smith and wife Shirley buying flowers for all the NICU mothers for Mother’s Day.

Smith shared the good news with fans on his Instagram.

Via Instagram:

Hopefully this means progress for the Smith family for what no doubt is a tough road ahead.

Cleveland and Boston square off for Game 4 on Tuesday.