Celtics Notebook

Hopes sank with misses

Cold close put this one on ice

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 2, 2010

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CLEVELAND — Even when the Celtics were down in the fourth quarter last night, the opportunities were there.

Down 92-91, Ray Allen missed a 26-footer.

Down 94-91, Paul Pierce took a pull-up jumper about 5 feet from the rim and came up empty.

Kevin Garnett was positioned perfectly for a putback, and missed it.

The shots were there. None of them fell.

After the Cavaliers had rallied from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, the Celtics shot 5 for 19 in the fourth, missing their last eight shots during a 101-93 loss in Game 1.

“That’s crazy,’’ Pierce said. “We liked everything we did down there. It was a couple shots that I had that I’ll take 99 out of 100 times.’’

“We had some good looks at it,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “[Referee] Jason Phillips blocked Ray’s wide-open three one time. That was a big play, actually. It’s not Jason’s fault. He was running down the floor. But Rondo got it to [Allen] in a great spot and the official ran into him.

“I’m not that upset late in the game with some of the shots we had. I was just really upset at our guys with the execution and the next pass. We were so good in the first half . . . I just thought we settled. We’ll take those same shots. The job we’ve got to do is on the other end. We can’t let them come out here and score 100 points.’’

Straightened line
Considered a liability at the free throw line just six months ago, Rajon Rondo knocked down his first nine shots from the stripe last night, finishing 12 of 14. He’s 27 for 32 this postseason, best on the team.

“I’m just working,’’ Rondo said. “Working, continuing to stay humble, continuing to believe in my shot, believe in my free throws. I’m taking them. I’m trying to get to the hole. I drew a lot of fouls tonight. I’ve never shied away from getting fouled, it’s just tonight I got a couple calls. I made them foul me. I tried to make my shots.’’

“He’s the engine to their vehicle,’’ said Cavaliers guard Mo Williams, who answered Rondo’s 27-point, 12-assist night with 20 points and six assists.

Said Garnett, “[Rondo] was aggressive. Not only aggressive, but he was finding guys. He controlled the huddle, which is very rare for him, but you love to see it — one of the youngest players carried the huddle. And that’s what we’re going to need. We’re going to need everybody’s contribution to defeat this team.’’

Imitation invitation
Trying to replicate Rondo’s speed in practice, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown resorted to a couple of the younger members of his staff. First, he went with Jordi Fernandez, his jack-of-all-trades coach, who didn’t quite meet Rondo’s zero-to-60. Then he went with director of player development Lloyd Pierce, who played the part well enough to make James say, “Now, that’s a lot more like Rajon Rondo.’’

Replicating opponents isn’t easy. “We were going to play Milwaukee and I kept saying, ‘Guys, they play hard in practice,’ ’’ Rivers said. “You can’t recreate playing hard. You can warn them. Then, you get in the game and Milwaukee starts playing hard. And the guys go, ‘Geez, these guys are playing hard!’ It’s very similar, just like we can’t recreate LeBron.’’

The parallels between Glen Davis embracing his role as an energy player and the Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao mastering that role have been drawn ad nauseam.

Varejao gave the Celtics headaches during the regular season with his hustle, averaging 13.3 points and 9 rebounds in three games. Davis has done the little things — rebounding, taking charges, getting to the foul line — in bursts, and Rivers said the difference will be doing it consistently.

Where Davis is still finding himself in his third season, Varejao’s carved out a niche over seven years by doing all the thankless things.

“It’s almost, if you equate it to football, like playing right guard,’’ Brown said. “You’re going to do the grunt work every day . . . You have to have a special makeup to be that kind of person.’’

The statistical comparison was even last night — Varejao had 4 points and 6 rebounds, while Davis put up 5 points and 4 boards — but the Cleveland forward played 22 minutes to Davis’s 12. Davis also had five fouls and three turnovers.

Lip service
Kendrick Perkins knew guarding Shaquille O’Neal had occupational hazards. Four minutes into the game, he took an elbow from O’Neal that left his upper lip bloodied. He got five stitches and returned in the second quarter . . . Bill Spooner, the referee involved in Rasheed Wallace’s meltdown against Cleveland last month, was on the floor last night . . . Bobby Vines, who for the past 15 years served as the Celtics’ senior ticket executive, died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 43. “The Boston Celtics family is deeply saddened to announce the passing of a cornerstone of its ticket operations group,’’ the team said in a statement. “The team’s heart goes out to his family . . . He will be missed.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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