MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. (more…)