BOSTON (AP) -Their job is to get the ball to the Big Three, and they could not be any more different in the way they go about it.
Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell have been the perfect complements at point guard for the Boston Celtics this season - a quiet, second-year speedster in his first playoffs and the trash-talking 38-year-old chucker looking for one more title before he's done.
``It's like the yin and the yang,'' Celtics guard Eddie House said Friday before the team practiced for Game 2 of the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. ``They both do different things.''
In his first season as the starting point guard, Rondo anchored a team that led the NBA with 66 wins and won the Eastern Conference title.
A big part of that was the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
But someone had to get them the ball.
Rondo averaged more than 10 points and five assists, while also sneaking away with more than four rebounds per game. The fastest player on the team, and one of the fastest in the NBA, he also had 129 steals with his 147 turnovers, the fourth-best ratio among starting point guards in the league.
``I think everybody is proud of Rondo this year because he's had so many knocks on what he doesn't do, versus the things that he does do well. So I'm happy for him,'' Garnett said.
``You grow to love Rondo because of his work ethic and his consistency and what he does every day. Like any young guy, he can be a pain just like anybody else, you know, but what you love about him is he continues to work. ... He grew up over the season.''
The season began with questions about whether a second-year point guard could lead a team with three All-Stars that was put together to win now.
But Rondo showed his worth as the season went on, and the Celtics were looking for a backup instead.
House was the No. 2 point guard for most of the season, but he was always miscast in the role. A natural shooting guard, he was the No. 5 scorer on the team this season - ahead of starter Kendrick Perkins - and not the passer the Celtics wanted.
So, as Boston cruised through the regular season and headed for the playoffs, general manager Danny Ainge went looking for someone to take over when Rondo was resting.
He found Cassell, languishing with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 38-year-old, two-time champion virtually begged the lottery-bound Clippers to buy out his contract so he could sign with the Celtics.
``Elton Brand went down. Shaun Livingston went down,'' Cassell said. ``In the Western Conference, when your two horses go down, you are done.''
But Cassell, who won back-to-back titles as a backup in his first two years in the league with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and '95, wasn't done. So after the Clippers bought him out he quickly signed with Boston for just such as situation as the Celtics are in now.
``Sam has been great in these moments,'' Allen said. ``Sam has been in these moments his whole life.''
In 17 games with the Celtics, he averaged 7.6 points and 2.1 assists. More importantly, he's also turned out to be the perfect tutor for Rondo.
``Sam has helped me a lot. He's been a great mentor throughout the playoffs,'' Rondo said. ``Sam's always talking, along with a lot of other veteran guys.''
The message: Don't start changing what he does just because the games are more important. For Rondo, whose speed is his biggest asset, that means pushing the ball up the court to put pressure on the defense.
But Cassell shook him off.
``Rajon is fine, man. Y'all need to write about something else,'' Cassell said. ``He's battle-tested. He's the starting point guard on the Boston Celtics. This is not November; we're playing in June.''
Coach Doc Rivers understands that he'll keep getting questions about Rondo as the playoffs progress because each step is new for him. But he is confident in his point guard, just as he's been all season.
``The questions will never stop,'' Rivers said. ``They'll never stop about Rondo, they've never stop about me, they'll never stop about Kevin, they'll never stop about Paul, they'll never stop about our team, and you can't take it personally. It's part of it. Just go out and just keep playing, and that's all you can do.''

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