Success revolves around Rondo
WALTHAM — The keys are in Rajon Rondo’s hands.
Two years ago, the guard’s play was up and down when the Celtics knocked out the Cavaliers in seven games.
One night he went 0 for 6 with four turnovers, another he went 9 for 15 with 13 assists.
This year, Rondo averaged 14.8 points and 10.3 assists in four games against the Cavaliers, and as the Celtics prepare to open their Eastern Conference second-round series tonight in Cleveland, coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that as his rising star goes, so go the Celtics.
“I think Rondo’s the key to the series,’’ Rivers said.
“I think his speed has to be a factor in this series. I think he has to be disruptive defensively with his speed, and his ball pressure.’’
Cleveland exploited Rondo’s spotty jump shooting in the 2008 playoffs, daring him to take the outside shot while his defender roamed the floor.
Teams across the league have adopted the strategy. Rivers said Rondo undoubtedly will see more of the same this series, and how he deals with it will be key.
“They’re going to help off of him and he has to handle that well,’’ Rivers said. “Really, how well he handles them trapping off of him and really not guarding him will be the key to us winning. When he’s effective, our whole team is effective.’’
His workload won’t lighten on the defensive end, where he’ll have to stop Mo Williams from spraying the Celtics with 3-pointers. Williams shot 42.9 percent from long-range (ninth in the league), dousing the Celtics with four in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s 108-88 win Feb. 25.
“The key to guarding Mo is to take away his three in transition,’’ Rondo said. “Simple as that. Always know where he’s at at all times.’’
Rivers echoed the sentiment.
“If you lose sight of Mo Williams or Delonte [West], you’re giving up a three. So he’s got to have his antennae up on both ends.’’
“He deserves it,’’ Rivers said. “He earned it all year. Congratulations. I don’t think Kobe [Bryant] and [Kevin] Durant, and Dwight Howard — who I don’t think gets enough credit for what he does for their team — not a lot of other choices.’’
Said Paul Pierce, “If you ask players to be honest, just based on what he’s achieved individually and as a team, it should be unanimous.’’
James will receive his trophy tomorrow at the University of Akron, according to the AP.
Asked if it could be a distraction, Rivers joked, “I hope it’s a distraction for them. It won’t be a distraction for us.’’
James opted to shoot a free throw lefthanded in Game 5 of the Cavaliers’ first-round series against Chicago because of lingering pain.
“We didn’t have contact, so [James’s session] was good, and he went through everything,’’ Brown said.
James did not speak with reporters but during his final session, he was participating in a 3-point drill with West and didn’t appear to favor his right arm.
“We worked on that today and there’s nobody on our team that can throw that [cross-court] pass, so the work didn’t look as good. We kept getting out there, and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re throwing softballs.’ But he’s a great passer. In some ways even though he scores a lot, he wants to pass sometimes.’’
Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed to this report.