Rondo comes up with another big steal

Updated: June 11, 2010, 1:19 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo's interception of a pass by Kobe Bryant in the final minute of Game 4 will go into Celtics lore along with some other important steals.

Rondo grabbed the ball near the scorer's table and went the length of the court for a layup that made it an eight-point game with 32 seconds left and all-but clinched the 96-89 victory. Rondo had a franchise-record 189 steals this season, and none of them were more important.

Rondo's latest is on the list with Larry Bird's steal in the closing seconds of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. Bird picked off Isiah Thomas' inbounds pass, balanced himself to avoid going out of bounds and got it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winner in the final second of a 108-107 victory.

But for historical value it probably doesn't rank up with John Havlicek's steal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965. Havlicek tipped the Hal Greer's inbounds pass away, and Sam Jones grabbed it to dribble out the clock and protect a one-point lead.

The NBA calls Johnny Most's "Havlicek stole the ball!" the most famous radio call in league history.

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Dr. J and DOC: Julius Erving attended Game 4 of the NBA finals along with fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the winner of a contest.

Erving, who won an NBA championship in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers, might have been able to win more titles if not for the powerful Celtics and Lakers teams. But that didn't prevent him from watching when they met in the NBA finals. Boston beat Los Angeles in 1984 before the Lakers beat the Celtics in 1985 and 1987.

"I probably would have tuned in," Dr. J recalled. "Not that I'm a big basketball fan, but I am an Eastern Conference guy. I'm always pretty loyal, cheer for the conference. Plus, the games in my era between Larry (Bird) and Magic (Johnson), and Boston and L.A. were very exciting. You wouldn't want to miss those."

So he'd root for the Celtics?

"It's hard to root for Boston," Erving said. "I root for the conference. Rooting for Boston, that's asking a little much, especially in public."

Erving was expecting to see Ray Allen bounce back from his 0-for-13 shooting performance in Game 3.

First, though, it was dinner with Abdul-Jabbar and Gregory Tutunik of Buffalo Grove, Ill., who won a Kia automobile and a trip to the finals through an online contest in which fans could vote for the NBA's MVP award.

"Dinner with the Captain and the Doc, not a bad deal," Erving said.

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THE OFFICIAL WORD: For all the complaints about the officiating, Phil Jackson doesn't think the topic is any "hotter" than in other NBA finals he's been involved in.

"It's always contentious," the Lakers coach said before Game 4. "There's been a little more focus, perhaps, this time. Perhaps some of it has been an undercurrent in the past, but it's always a contention."

Both Jackson and Celtics coach Doc Rivers have talked repeatedly about the referees in the series.

The best players all have been whistled for five fouls -- Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Game 1, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett in Game 2 and Pierce, Garnett and Derek Fisher in Game 3. Ron Artest fouled out of Game 2 and Lamar Odom had five fouls in each of the first two games.

"What we like to say to the players is You play beyond the refereeing, you play above the refereeing," Jackson said. "If it's going to be (called) tight, then you've got to play according to how it's going to be refereed. If it's going to be played loose, then you have to adjust to having a tougher type game."

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ALLEN HITS PRE-GAME SHOT: Ray Allen missed all 13 of his shots in the Celtics' 91-84 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 on Tuesday night. But he was right on target Thursday night -- before the game, anyway.

As the Celtics guard was walking toward the trainer's room, he tossed a towel about 25 feet across the locker room. It landed right on the chair in front of his locker.

"Nice shot. Is that an omen?" a reporter asked.

A silent Allen just kept walking.

Then he hit his first shot of the game on a layup. He finished 4 for 11 and had 12 points, five rebounds, one assist and a steal.

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COWBOYS' CONFERENCE: Boston guard Tony Allen, who went to Oklahoma State, said he hasn't been following the upheaval that could lead to the dissolution of the Big 12.

Allen didn't realize that his school could be headed to form a superconference in the Pac-10 along with five other Big 12 schools.

"I really don't understand the logic of it. Why are they doing it?" Allen said before Game 4 of the NBA finals. "If it's good for them, much love."

As part of the shuffle, Nebraska was likely to join the Big Ten.

"I actually liked playing in the Nebraska gym," Allen said.

The shakeup is being driven by football, and it could leave basketball powers like Kansas in a weakened shell of a Big 12 or looking for a smaller conference to join.

Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who went to Kansas, declined to comment before the game.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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