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With Kevin Garnett out, there are 16-20 missing points other offensive players must account for if the Celtics are going to be the solid offensive club they’ve been for the past two seasons.

Over the next weeks, we’re going to see who can increase their usage rate on offense without becoming less efficient.

The most interesting players to watch (for me) are going to be Powe and Rondo, and today against Phoenix Rondo was determined to be a more aggressive scorer.

He took 15 shots, about six more than his average, and he was not as deferential as usual — despite dishing ten dimes. He also turned the ball over five times, something we should expect if Rajon is going to take on a greater scoring burden.

I thought I’d quickly isolate a few sequences from the third quarter that show what Rondo is likely to try and do on offense with KG out.

(10:29)–Scal rebounds a Nash miss, and passes up to Rondo. Rajon brings the ball up at a medium pace when he realizes Shaq and Jason Richardson are back-pedaling toward the paint with their eyes off the ball. Rondo accelerates at the three-point line and veers a little to his left, around both defenders, who are caught flat-footed. He lays the ball in with his right hand, plus one. Nice decision making.

(8:56)–Rondo is relaxing beyond the three-point line on the right wing/weak side as Pierce settles into the high post at the top of the key. Rondo’s man (Nash) is lurking between Rondo and Pierce (with his eyes on Pierce, mostly) waiting to help. Pierce receives a pass and Nash comes over to double. Pierce swings the ball to Rondo, who passes on the three and dribbles hard to his left toward the foul line. With Nash on his heels, Rondo pulls up and hit the 15-footer.

(3:29)–Rondo steals the ball from Nash and streaks down the court with Barbosa and a second defender alongside. Rondo drives right into both of them and tries a wild lay-up, which Barbosa blocks. Luckily, Ray Allen is there to pick up the loose ball.

(1:25)–Matt Barnes gets stuck on Rondo about 20 feet from the hoop on a switch. Rondo takes a hard dribble to the rim before pulling up from 18 feet and knocking down the jumper.

So we’ve got two nice-looking jumpers, a tough take in transition and one really bad decision to go one-on-two that should have resulted in a turnover.

What does this tell us?

Maybe nothing, especially considering point guards are regulating lighting up Steve Nash. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Rondo can shoot jump shots much better than he did earlier this season. He shot about 50 percent on two-point jumpers in the playoffs last year, and he appears to be much more comfortable shooting off the dribble.

I’d like to see Rondo continue to take advantage of his quickness–and the fact that defenders give him space–by taking more of these pull-ups with KG out. He’s going to face some better defensive point guards in the next ten games, though none of them are elite.

He’ll face a couple of guys who are a little taller (Baron Davis and Chauncey Billups), and a few who are about as quick (Devin Harris, Derrick Rose and T.J. Ford). But none of these guys are world-beaters on defense (at least according to the numbers on 82games and BR).

I also expect to see one or two ill-advised takes to the rim each game in the next two weeks. I can live with that.

But it will be very interesting to see if Rondo continues to test that pull-up jumper. One of the good things about having a key guy injured is that other players get to push themselves and extend their roles on both sides of the court. Who knows. Maybe Rondo will have to take a pull-up jumper with the clock winding down in a playoff game. Might as well start getting ready now.

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Zach Lowe

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