Given an opening, Rondo broke through

Point guard leads way in second half

By Duane Rankin
Globe Correspondent / May 12, 2010

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CLEVELAND — With Boston’s Big Three gutting Cleveland’s defense in the first half, the Cavaliers had to make a decision last night.

Keep playing Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce straight up or start helping out on them.

They chose the latter.

So Rajon Rondo chose to take the game over.

The best player in the series, Rondo had a stretch in which he scored 8 of Boston’s 11 points in the third quarter to signal the beginning of its 120-88 blowout win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Just tried to take what the defense gave me,’’ Rondo said. “Didn’t try to force anything. In the second half, I had those looks. Had those gaps. I took advantage of them.’’

Rondo finished with 16 points, all in the second half, and seven assists as the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is tomorrow night at TD Garden.

“That’s what you call a floor general,’’ Glen Davis said. “A guy that can dictate the game by just calling plays and putting guys in the right spots at the right time. That’s the makeup of a legend.’’

A sellout crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena not only got a repeat viewing of Rondo being a difference maker, it saw Davis score 15 points off the bench.

Scoring 12 of those points in the fourth quarter, Davis had two 3-point plays in which he scored in the paint, drew a foul, and made the free throw.

For a half, the Cavaliers looked as if they had figured Rondo out.

After he posted a splendid triple-double in Game 4 with 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists, Rondo didn’t even score in the first half.

Rondo only took two shots from the field and had just three assists and one rebound.

“In the first half, they were doing a great job of [defending] the ball,’’ Rondo said. “I didn’t try to force anything. Those guys had it going.’’

“Those guys’’ were Garnett, Allen, and Pierce. They combined for 39 points in the opening half so Rondo didn’t need to do much as the Celtics led, 50-44, at the break.

Pierce had 14 points, Allen 13, and Garnett dropped in 12.

“We’re not going to stop going to them,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

The halftime break didn’t cool off Allen as he hit back-to-back treys to force Cleveland coach Mike Brown to call a timeout with 10:54 left in the third quarter.

So when Cleveland began to shift its defense to slow Allen, Rondo went to work.

“In the second half, the lanes opened up,’’ Rondo said. “We got stops and transition buckets. Just tried to take advantage of it.’’

Rondo scored 8 of Boston’s next 11 points to help the Celtics go up, 67-52.

He hit a runner, a jumper and went backdoor for a layup on Mo Williams, who got more frustrated by the bucket.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job of mixing it up the whole series,’’ Rondo said. “I’m very unselfish and I didn’t want to force anything.’’

Rondo finished with 12 points in the quarter on 5-of-6 shooting. He also had four assists and a steal.

By the fourth, Williams was heated to the point he and Rondo got into it and received technical fouls with 4:40 left.

“Mo told me he liked my game when we were talking,’’ said Rondo with a straight face. “I told him I liked his as well. That’s the only words we said back and forth.’’

After Rondo took command in the third to spark Boston to an 83-60 lead, Davis was instrumental in the Celtics closing out the Cavaliers in the fourth.

Davis went 3 for 3 from the field, 6 for 8 from the line in scoring 12 points in the fourth.

“That hurt them,’’ said Davis. “I seen it from their facial expressions because they tried to keep fighting. To go out and hit big shots was big for our team.’’

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