The Celtics' highlight reel after their Game 1 loss to the Lakers, which lacked ample material anyway, was missing a player who's usually good to provide a few neck-turning clips: Rajon Rondo.
That's not to say the wiry Boston point guard didn't have decent numbers in the 102-89 loss (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds).
But he wasn't able to coordinate the Celtics' offense in his usual ways, in part because of the Lakers' — and especially Kobe Bryant's — defense.
Three times in the first half Rondo had shots swatted, twice when he drove inside — against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — and threw up difficult layup attempts.
Bryant guarded Rondo in the 2008 NBA Finals, and has several times since. "You try to stay in front of him as much as you can," Bryant said. "I'm not saying anything that teams haven't tried to do in the past. He's obviously turned into a phenomenal player, and I'll just try to control his speed as much as possible."
At the Celtics' practice Friday, Rondo conceded that Bryant "did a great job on me," but admitted that the Celtics' problems in Game 1 hindered their transition game, where he thrives. Boston failed to get stops on defense, didn't grab offensive rebounds and struggled with fouls.
"It seemed like to me they didn't miss a shot or we couldn't get a stop," Rondo said.
Still, the Lakers' game plan worked when Rondo penetrated. When Rondo gets in deep, he likes to draw post defenders and dump off passes to the Celtics' big men for easy dunks. Aware of this, Bynum and Gasol let him drive but forced him to shoot instead.
"We were trying really to make him finish over seven foot, whether it would be Pau or me, [and] wait until he goes to shoot the ball instead of committing to him early," Bynum said.
Regardless of the Lakers defense, Rondo said getting loose balls, steals and rebounds is what he needs to do. "And when I get on the break," he added, "just try to be aggressive."
Allen's down time
Hamstrung with foul trouble for most of Game 1, Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen spent a lot of time on the bench; he played only 27 minutes.
Two of those fouls came while guarding Bryant, and Allen said he wasn't sure how to play aggressive defense on Bryant but not risk fouling. "That's a good lesson I need to learn real quick here," Allen said.
The Celtics mixed and matched defenders on Bryant in the 2008 Finals, using Allen, Paul Pierce and then-Celtic James Posey. It's likely that Boston will continue the rest of the series with Tony Allen also pitching in on Bryant.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said after Game 1 that the Celtics probably won't win if Allen isn't on the floor much: "Ray has to play, we have to get Ray the ball."
Rivers also said they might use Paul Pierce to help Allen defend Bryant.
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