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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - Unable to corral Rajon Rondo so far in the NBA playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers may resort to Plan LeB.
LeBron James, it’s your turn.
With Rondo coming off an historic 29-point, 18-rebound, 13-assist performance in Game 4, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Monday he plans to use an assortment of players to try to slow the seemingly unstoppable Celtics point guard and one of them could be James, the league’s two-time MVP and a first-team all-defense selection.
“We’re going to give ’Bron an opportunity,” Brown said.
Rondo’s not scared.
“I don’t really care who’s guarding me,” he said.
That’s been apparent through the first four games of this ping-ponging series, tied 2-2 going into Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 at Quicken Loans Arena. Rondo, no longer viewed as the fourth Celtic behind Boston’s Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, has been destroying the Cavs — particularly Mo Williams and Anthony Parker — with his dribble penetration and playmaking.
Rondo is averaging 21.8 points, 13 assists and 8.3 rebounds, eye-popping, LeBron-like numbers that have forced the Cavs into rethinking, and, perhaps, redesigning their defensive strategy. One obvious option is the switch to James, who has shut down Pierce so far and said Sunday he would be willing to check Rondo.
Brown worries that if James is taken off Pierce, Boston’s streaky forward may find his touch after averaging just 11.8 points and shooting only 32 percent through four games.
If James indeed gets assigned to Rondo, he’ll join fellow superstars Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, who both have had to check Boston’s tornado-in-tennis shoes guard.
Rondo isn’t dreading a one-on-one confrontation with James.
“It’s happened before,” he said. “LeBron is going to be LeBron. He’s a great help defender so he’s definitely going to be helping. He’s a good defender. They did that a couple of years ago when Kobe was checking me in the finals. So, I’m used to bigger guys guarding me the shot and challenging me late because of their wingspan.
“I really don’t care. If he checks me, he checks me. It’s not going to change the way we run our offense.”
The Cavaliers did little more than some light shooting and conditioning after returning home following their 97-87 loss on Sunday. The primary objective was to break down tape of Game 4, when Rondo joined Oscar Robertson (1963) and Wilt Chamberlain (1967) as the third player in playoff history to have at least 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
“We watched, basically, the tape on him,” said Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has dropped out of Brown’s postseason rotation. “It’s hard for one guy to stop him because he is that good. It’s going to take all five. We always knew that he was a hell of a player.
“Maybe we were so worried about The Big Three that in some degree we’re underestimating him and that was our biggest mistake.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Pierce hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm. Hounded by James, he scored only nine points on Sunday and was in foul trouble.
“I’m digging myself a ditch as far as my fouls but I think they’re good fouls I’m getting,” he said. “It’s nothing I’m really worried about. No matter how I’m doing offensively, as long as we win, that’s all that matters to me. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
PBT: San Antonio found what worked and it’s on the Grizzlies to raise their level enough in Game 2 in San Antonio on Tuesday to get a split in the series.
PBT: Kevin Durant and other Thunder stars are sending their support to victims of the Oklahoma tornado.
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