Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics - Game Three

NBA Playoffs: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double helps Celtics to overtime victory over Hawks

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The Boston Celtics looked anything but exceptional in the first half of Friday night’s Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks, but Rajon Rondo was able to find his rhythm in the second half as the hosting Celtics needed overtime to pick up a win in their first game at home in the Garden this postseason. It wasn’t pretty, for the most part, but Boston took the lead in Game 3 of the seven-game series with a 90-84 overtime victory in Rondo’s first game back from suspension.

Rondo finished the game with 17 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds in his return after sitting Game 2 due to contact with an official in the waning minutes of the series’ opening game. The point guard’s players around him often looked overly-average for a game in the NBA Playoffs — and his six turnovers were a bit troubling — but Boston was able to win the battle thanks to the play of their heady point guard. It was a good for Boston considering they nearly gave it away after having an 11-point cushion late in the fourth quarter.

Rondo’s triple-double nicely complemented the rest of the “Big Four” as Ray Allen returned from injury off the bench to score 13 points and hit a dagger free-throw in overtime while Paul Pierce added 21 points (14-of-14 from the charity stripe). Kevin Garnett was excellent on the defensive end, almost overshadowing the 20 points and 15 rebounds he was able to contribute to the box score. The rest of Boston’s roster didn’t add a lot — Avery Bradley missed time in the second half with a shoulder injury — but it was enough to allow them to take the series lead at home.

The Hawks played very well in the first half, but the second half and overtime were a whole ‘nother story. Josh Smith was forced to the bench with a leg injury he suffered in Game 2 and, while it looked like Josh Smith and Tracy McGrady were going to pick up the slack following their first half performances, it apparently wasn’t meant to be. Johnson forced overtime with five points of his own late in the fourth quarter, but made just 11 of his 28 attempts from the field on his way to 29 points. McGrady was much more effective off the bench as he apparently entered a time machine for the first half, but an ankle injury seemed to take its toll on him as he finished with just two points in the second half.

While the turning point was probably Rondo picking up his play in the second half, it could also be due to the Hawks lack of any sort of presence from the forward positions. Jason Collins was ineffective after scoring his only four points in the first two minutes of the game and Erick Dampier — who got surprising playing time due to Collins’ foul trouble — certainly looked his age on both ends of the floor despite a solid six points and six rebounds.

This series is getting uglier by the game (only seven players scored in double figures on Friday night, despite the extra five minutes of overtime), but it seems that Boston has settled into being perfectly happy with picking up ugly wins and hopefully advancing. It seems that plan may work in this series, especially if injuries continue to be a problem, but that might not be the case as the NBA Playoffs roll on.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: