Celtics notebook: Doc looking for more from Rondo

Jim Fenton

The strategy has been clear every time Rajon Rondo steps onto the court in his role as the Boston Celtics’ point guard.

The Los Angeles Lakers assign Kobe Bryant to the weak-shooting Rondo and have him float around as a help defender.

Rondo, who has been slowed by an ankle injury suffered in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, was ineffective in Sunday night’s 103-98 loss in Game 5, and his playing time was cut to 14:32.

After getting 16 assists, six rebounds and two steals in Game 2, Rondo totaled just nine assists, 16 points, five rebounds and one steals in the three games in Los Angeles.

Coach Doc Rivers used Sam Cassell (18:00) and Eddie House (13:38) longer than usual with Rondo struggling in Game 5.

The lack of aggressiveness from Rondo at the offensive end has enabled Bryant to be more effective on defense. Rondo has either been hesitant to shoot open jumpers or is unable to penetrate in the lane to make things happen.

“Rondo is just not playing well right now,” Rivers told reporters at a post-game press conference Sunday night. “We still believe in him. They’re doing a nice job to start games with Kobe guarding him and roaming, and the ball is ending up in his hands.

“What we’re trying to get him to do is just be aggressive to the basket,” Rivers said. “He’s got to look to make more plays and be aggressive to the basket.”

Rondo, who sustained a bone bruise in his left ankle in the opening minute of the second half in Game 3, has had good stretches and bad stretches throughout the playoffs.

If Rondo continues to be left open and is unable to make the Lakers pay in Game 6 tonight, Rivers will probably turn to House and Cassell once again. Rondo has been a better player at home, though, getting 15 points and seven assists in Game 1 and 16 assists in Game 2.

“He’s fine,” said Rivers. “You know what, guys? He’s a second-year basketball player, and I never lose sight of that. There’s a lot of pressure on him. I’m not going to put more on him.

“I’m just going to keep coaching him and trusting him, and he got us here. Clearly, he’s not playing as well as he would like, but we believe in him.”

No. 26 a record:

The Celtics will set an NBA record tonight by playing their 26th playoff game.

The previous mark of 25 was set by the 1994 New York Knicks, who lost to the Houston Rockets in the Finals, and equaled by the 2005 Detroit Pistons, who lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.

The Celtics, who are 15-10 in the postseason, tied the NBA record with nine road losses in the playoffs, a mark established by the Knicks in ’94. Boston went 3-9 away from home.

With a 12-1 mark at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics have tied the NBA postseason record for most home wins. The Celtics, in 1984, and the Lakers, in 1988, also had 12 victories on their own court.

Tonight will be the Celtics’ 14th postseason home game, tying the record set by the Lakers in ’88.

Flight delay:

The Celtics ran into a problem, reportedly a cracked windshield, at Los Angeles International Airport Monday and their flight, scheduled to depart around 2 p.m. EDT, did not leave until around 6 p.m. Instead of arriving early in the evening, the Celtics were due to touch down in Bedford around midnight while the Lakers were in Boston much earlier than that ... Ray Allen, who left the Staples Center right after Game 5 due to a health issue with one of his children, will play tonight. ... The Celtics put a limited number of tickets for Games 6 and 7 on sale Monday morning, and they were sold out in 15 minutes.

The Enterprise