LOS ANGELES - Rajon Rondo took two hard hits while driving to the basket in Sacramento last Wednesday. A hit to the head left Kevin Garnett motionless on the floor at Sacramento and an elbow to his face against the Lakers Sunday left him with four stitches above his eye. And Ray Allen was literally tackled by the Lakers' Lamar Odom.
With each win for the NBA's top team, the frustrated foes seem to get more and more physical. So far, the Celtics (26-3) have been the bigger men, but if the hard fouls continue, it will be interesting to see if they can continue to keep their cool and keep from getting injured, too.
"It's a different component, where we have to understand that this game is a lot more mental than physical," said Garnett after the 110-91 win against the Lakers. "Teams think, I guess, getting techs and trying to mix it up is the way to play us. We have to adjust to that. We're a very emotional team. A very compassionate team.
"We have to keep all that under wraps. We have to keep our energy centered and continue to stay focused on what we're doing. Sometimes it's easier said than done."
Of all the hard hits the Celtics have taken, the one Allen endured Sunday probably stands out the most.
With 2:57 left in the game, Allen was knocked into fans sitting courtside when he was tackled by Odom. A confused and angry Allen jumped up quickly and the teams exchanged words, but nothing more ensued. Odom was slapped with a flagrant foul 1 while Allen, oddly, also was given a technical by referee Bennett Salvatore. There were seven technical fouls in the game.
"I really don't know what happened," Allen said. "I don't know what Odom was thinking. I got the rebound and he tackled me. I know it's Sunday, but this is the wrong [sport]. I watched football the other day. I didn't think I was going to be involved in a tackle on the court.
"But then they gave me a technical, and I didn't understand why I got a technical for just standing there. I got thrown into the crowd.
"I didn't get hurt. But I could've got hurt. I went right into the bleachers.
"I thought that was totally uncalled for. I don't know what message Lamar was trying to send or what happened to make him so angry. But you just don't do stuff like that."
As the Celtics continue to win, Allen believes, the intense play of opponents will continue.
"Every night that we step into a building, people are going to step up and say, 'Hey look, we're trying to beat this team,"' Allen said. "A team with a bad record is thinking, 'We're going to beat this team. We're going to turn our season around.' Teams with good records will want to prove to the rest of the league that we're one of the elite.
"So, we're going to see the best of every team. We just have to play basketball. It's not like when we were on prior teams where people just came out and went through the motions. I think early we learned a lot of valuable lessons."
Said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, "We're going to get everybody's best shot. Guys are going to come out and try to talk us out of our game."
Pierce was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the second time he has received the award this season. Pierce led the Celtics to a 4-0 Western road trip by averaging 27.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.8 steals, including a season-high 37 points at Seattle last Thursday.
Rondo said late Sunday night that he was uncertain whether he could overcome his right hamstring injury in time to play against the Rockets tomorrow at TD Banknorth Garden. "I don't know," Rondo said. "We'll see how it is. It's probably day to day." He suffered the injury late in the first quarter of the 104-98 victory at Utah Saturday night and missed his first game of the season against the Lakers. Tony Allen had 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, plus 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 6 fouls, and 4 turnovers in 42 minutes against the Lakers in place of Rondo. "I just got to rest," Rondo said. "I got time to rest my feet and my legs. I'm going to take care of my body right. The rest is going to help."