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Rondo, Celtics Beat Cavs To Even East Semifinals

Fans cheers as Boston guard Rajon Rondo runs back upcourt after scoring against Cleveland during Game 4 in the second-round playoff series in Boston on Sunday. Boston won 97-87. (AP)
Fans cheers as Boston guard Rajon Rondo runs back upcourt after scoring against Cleveland during Game 4 in the second-round playoff series in Boston on Sunday. Boston won 97-87. (AP)

Rajon Rondo was in such a hurry to get up the court that he wouldn't even wait for an outlet pass.

He just went and got the rebounds himself.

Boston's point guard was a one-man fast break Sunday, finishing with 29 points, 18 boards and 13 assists, and the Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-87 to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

"I think the best way for us as a team to start a fast break is when I rebound," Rondo said.

Those old legs on the Celtics may not be ideal for a running game, but Rondo is going to take the ball and go - even if his teammates don't keep up.

"It doesn't matter if those guys are running with him, he's getting the ball up the floor," said LeBron James, who added Rondo was "definitely the difference maker."

Rondo had a playoff career high in rebounds and matched his best scoring night in his fourth postseason triple-double. He played 47 minutes with some of his bigger-name teammates in foul trouble, and fans rewarded him with "MVP! MVP!" chants as he knocked down a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left.

"He was absolutely sensational tonight," Boston coach Doc Rivers said.

Rondo became the third player in playoff history to have at least 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Oscar Robertson had 32 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists in 1963, and Wilt Chamberlain had 29 points, 36 rebounds and 13 assists in 1967.

Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett scored 18 apiece for the Celtics, who bounced back from the worst home playoff loss in franchise history and ensured they'll get at least one more game at home. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Cleveland before the series returns to Boston on Thursday night.

James scored 22 points - only one more than he had in the first quarter of Game 3 - and seemed frustrated during a seven-turnover performance. Shaquille O'Neal added 17 points, his high for this postseason, but was on the bench when the Celtics blew by the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter.

"Boston was more aggressive and we have to try and do it for 48 minutes," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "The most aggressive team is going to win."

Rondo was still learning to be an NBA point guard when Boston won the championship two years ago. He's got it figured out now, and he's the reason the Celtics are two wins away from knocking out the East's No. 1 seed.

"He's a point guard now that runs our team and has complete control of our team," Rivers said. "Now we rely on him to win."

Tony Allen scored a playoff career-high 15 points in 26 spirited minutes off the bench for the Celtics, helping spell the foul-plagued Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

The Celtics ran off the first 10 points of the fourth, mostly in transition, turning a two-point edge into an 84-72 lead. Rondo's basket started the spurt, he twice fed Glen Davis for easy baskets, and Tony Allen finished it off with another bucket in transition.

"I just wanted to continue to attack," Rondo said. "That's how we got the lead at first."

But Cleveland used its own 10-0 run to climb to 86-84 after James converted a three-point play and set up Anderson Varejao for one. Tony Allen answered with a basket, and after a free throw by Varejao, Rondo threw a pretty bounce pass to Pierce for a dunk, then added a follow shot to make it 92-85 with 1:34 to play.

Rivers said the problem with Boston's offense in Game 3 was really its defense, because the Celtics never got enough stops to get their running game going. Rondo sped by the Cavs in this one, helping Boston - the team with older legs - to a 23-7 advantage in fast-break points.

"Multiple stops means Rondo in the open court," Rivers said.

James and the Cavs put their 124-95 victory in Game 3 away early and looked ready to deliver another quick knockout punch. Cleveland scored the first seven points, and things looked even better for the Cavaliers when Pierce and Kendrick Perkins both went to the bench early in the first quarter with two fouls. But the Celtics started getting stops, enabling Rondo to push the ball in transition, and Boston surged to a 31-22 lead.

James appeared to be checking out his sore right elbow after attempting to draw a charge on Rondo in the first half and rarely seemed in the attack mode that carried him to 38 points in Game 3.

Down 54-45 at halftime, Cleveland took the lead late in the third before Rondo found Tony Allen for baskets twice in the final 1:07 of the period, giving the Celtics a 74-72 edge heading to the fourth.

This program aired on May 10, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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