Rajon Rondo unsurprisingly is not concerned with the Heat

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The defining characteristic of the Boston Celtics is their defense. Their second defining characteristic is arrogance. This isn’t a bad thing. The Celtics, like all great teams, pride themselves on being the team they consider the best. All season long they kept the same mantra: the only team that can beat them is themselves. This was entirely accurate until they faced the Lakers, where that list became two teams. Themselves, and the Lakers.

So naturally, with the Heat being considered instant contenders for the title, someone decided to ask Rajon Rondo, the brashest of the brash, what he thought of the Heat while he’s out in Vegas practicing for Team USA.

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports caught up with Rondo and here’s what he had to say:

“They should be good, but they ain’t done nothing yet,” Rondo said after
a recent practice during Team USA’s minicamp. “They ain’t done
nothing.”

This is a true statement. The Heat in its current incarnation has literally never done anything, having not practiced or even been in the same room with each other yet.

But there’s more!

“What is there to be nervous for?” he said. “I’m worried about L.A.
That’s the team we need to beat. Miami looks really good on paper, and
I’m sure they’re going to be really good. But they still have to come
together as a team. I’m not saying they won’t, but who knows if those
guys can jell?

“Our biggest opponent each night is ourselves – that’s how I look at
it. Not to be cocky or anything, but that’s how we honestly feel. We are
the defending [Eastern] champs. Once the first game of the regular
season starts, that’s irrelevant. But we are going to go into training
camp looking to get back to the Finals and win it.”

Besides the fact that I would assume the verb would be ‘gel’ there, it’s pretty clear Rondo’s not a fan of the idea that a team that is made up of three superstars can just come together, use their talents, and win a championship based on talent and desire of elite players. You know, the exact same thing the Celtics did in 2008.

One more, for the road:

“Things aren’t going to go each guy’s particular way. It’s going to be about how they handle it as gentlemen.”

You know, gentlemen. Like punching players in the face and throwing them into tables. That kind of gentleman. Rondo’s a great competitor and a terrific player. I just found it funny that a player often considered as brash as he is, by both opposing players and even his own coaching staff would talk about being a gentleman.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.