KG and Rondo’s karmic connection
|01.28.09 at 11:23 pm ET|
You are a big man. Your job is to guard Kevin Garnett. This will not be a fun night for you because every time the point guard comes your way, you will have a choice to make and neither option is particularly appealing. You can cheat to the outside whereupon Garnett will roll to the basket and unleash a thunderous slam off an alley-oop. The crowd will go crazy. The highlight will be shown on SportsCenter and you will not look good.
Or, you can cheat to the inside and take away the lob, whereupon the point guard, Rajon Rondo, will slice hard to the basket and Garnett will be able to hand it off to him for a layup. What do you do?
If you’re a big man for the Sacramento Kings you guard against the lob. (Click here for the recap). You have seen the tape and you have seen the Celtics execute this play time and again. It seems like a wise strategy, but then you get this on the play-by-play during a three-minute stretch of the third quarter and you seem as lost as Charlie on the MBTA (and no, you never did get home):
Rajon Rondo makes layup (Kevin Garnett assists)
Rajon Rondo makes two point shot (Kevin Garnett assists)
Kevin Garnett makes two point shot (Rajon Rondo assists)
Kevin Garnett makes dunk (Rajon Rondo assists)
“With the floor spacing it’s very difficult to guard it,” Doc Rivers said. “If you play on the inside, Rondo gets to come off the pick and roll. If you play Kevin on the outside, then Kevin gets the lob. And it’s a pick your poison thing. Actually, most teams are picking the lob because it’s a tough pass and they’re trying to get backside help. But Ray (Allen’s) standing back there. You can see every time it happens, the coach is yelling at Ray’s guy. But Ray’s guy is thinking, ‘I’m not leaving Ray.’ So it’s a difficult choice. It’s been very good for us.”
The lob, or the alley-oop, has become a staple of the Celtics offense in the last month or so. It’s been so good that Garnett doesn’t like talking about it. (“We’re not talking about the lob,” Garnett said a couple of weeks ago. Trade secrets and all that.) But as the Kings showed last night, there’s a reason it’s been so effective, which is the alternative isn’t all that great either.
“We try to make adjustments every game depending on how teams play us,” Rondo said. “Tonight it was the give-and-go. Kevin saw I could run my man off and he’s so tall and long he can give it to me or bring it right back. The ball can go through him because he’s a great passing big (man) and he’s so unselfish.”
Passing has always been an underrated aspect of Garnett’s game. During his days in Minnesota, when he constantly drew double and even triple teams, he still averaged five or six assists per contest. With all the talent the Celtics have around him, they haven’t had to run their offense through him on the low post to get mismatches or double-teams.
In fact, Garnett can be even more effective playing on the perimeter because 1) he’s a very good shooting big man, 2) that leaves the middle of the paint open for Rondo and Paul Pierce to drive and 3) he can get back on defense quickly when he’s not stuck under the boards.
The connection between Rondo and Garnett has been developing from the early days of their time together when Garnett went out of his way to make sure Rondo knew he was an integral part of what they were developing. It’s been noted that Rondo is almost preternaturally calm and confident and certainly that helped hasten his development, but Garnett’s early acceptance was also important.
Watching Garnett roll hand-offs to Rondo it was hard not to think back of the great Larry Bird-Bill Walton tandem back-dooring teams to death. Like Larry and Big Red, Rondo and Garnett have developed an unspoken method of communication, which is probably why Garnett hates talking about it. After all, how do you explain a karmic connection?
The Celtics have played 11 games with more than two days rest and they have won all 11 of those games. Even more impressively, their average margin of victory in those games in 17 points.
Only four times in those 11 have they won by less than 10 points and the last four times they have won by 25 (Washington), 20 (New Jersey), 24 (Dallas) and 19 (Sacramento). The Celtics have seven more games this season (counting the first game after the All-Star break) with more than one day off between games.