Despite replays showing Rajon Rondo clearly bumped official Marc Davis with 41 seconds remaining before getting ejected, Celtics coach Doc Rivers came to the defense of his star point guard after Sunday night's 83-74 loss to the Hawks in Game 1.
"He’s in the game, right?" Rivers answered when asked about Rondo's reaction to the foul call on Brandon Bass, who raked Josh Smith in the face on a loose ball scramble. "So, when you’re in the game, I didn’t know there’s a rule the guy only involved in the play is the only one who can argue the call. As a coach, I’m not in the play, either. I argue calls vehemently.
"They’re all 10 competitors. You’re standing right there, you see what you see, you have a right to argue just as much as anybody else. I think it’s great. I think it’s getting your guys’ back on your team."
But Rivers also conceded that there is a natural concern for a suspension, given the fact that NBA by-laws call for an automatic one-game suspension for "intentional contact" with any official. After pleading for a jump ball, Rondo turned around and saw Davis make the foul call on Bass. He lost his composure and yelled at Davis, picking up a technical foul. He followed that up by stepping on Davis' foot, losing his balance and then sticking out his chest and bumping him.
"We always worry [about a suspension], but I would be surprised [if it happened]," Rivers said afterward.
Then Rivers focused his criticism on his own team for its slow start.
"We have to do a better job as a group to move the ball and get to the second option," Rivers said. "I thought we were a first-option and same-side of the floor team for most of the game and we’re not going to win a lot of games playing like that. We didn’t do our stuff. Listen, if we’re not doing our stuff, I always think as a coach I have to find some more stuff to do, or something else, or get us to do our stuff. We didn’t play like us. But give them credit. Defensively, they were terrific, and so let’s give them a little bit of credit."
The Celtics shot just 38 percent for the game.
"Overall, I thought we didn’t give our offense a chance to develop," Rivers said. "I thought we were a first-option team, and you have to shoot the heck out of the ball to be that and win the game."