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Investigating Rondo’s Playoff Jumper

 

The Celtics as a team hit a couple big jumpers last night. You may have heard a thing or two about them. Yet, before Baby’s clutch shots, there was someone else on the Celtics roster whose shooting performance got me excited about last night. No, it wasn’t Paul Pierce who had the mid range j going all night (6 of 9 on 2 pt jumpers). It certainly wasn’t Ray Allen who scored 12 points despite being unable to hit a shot outside 18 feet this entire series with any kind of regularlity. It wasn’t even Perk who hit a nifty 16 foot foul line jumper in the 2nd quarter that likely made KG proud.

The man’s shooting I am talking about here is none other than Mr. Triple Double himself Rajon Rondo. The point guard started the playoffs by playing arguably the best 5 game stretch of his career on the offensive end, averaging over 24 points for Games 1-5 against Chicago. A lot of this tremendous play stemmed from Rondo’s relentless attacking of the basket in transition but the close shots certainly weren’t accounting for all of the guard’s baskets. The X factor in Rondo’s great offensive play during those contests was his ability to hit the midrange jumper.

Over the regular season, Rondo shot a dismal 37% from the field on 2 point jumpers. That lack of a consistent stroke left most smart teams liable to give Rondo the open outside look in order to better defend the lane.

The problem for the Bulls in the first five games of their series against Boston was that Rondo was hitting his jumpers at a 45% clip, 8 points above his regular season average from 2 pt range. He was also taking and hitting a high number jump shots during these games. Now 45% is by no means shooting the lights out, but it is a huge number when you are dealing with a player like Rondo, whose jumper is his biggest offense weakness.

With Rondo shooting this well, it forced the Bulls in those games to account for these open looks more in their defense. This allowed Rondo a better opportunity to attack the paint, as well as create chances for his teammates, averaging 10 assists in those contests. This created a virtually impossible situation for the Bulls in attempting to defend Rondo one of the most explosive players in the league as no matter how they decided to defend the point guard, they had a high probability of being punished by the speedster.

Unfortunately however for Celtics fans, Rondo’s shooting touch appeared to get lost in the luggage on its way back to Chicago for Game 6 and was not recovered for quite some time. Despite the lack of “luggage, “Rondo failed to discover the problem himself, creating for some ugly shooting numbers in the past couple weeks. Let’s take a look at the guard’s shot charts from Game 6 and 7 of the Chicago series as well as Game 1 against Orlando after the jump.

Game 6 (Chicago)

Game 7 (Chicago)

Game 1 (Orlando)

That’s a lot of X’s on the floor. It kind of looks like someone was playing a game of tic tac toe, except whoever was using the x’s got an infinite number of turns. The overall shooting numbers were ugly for Rondo in these games as is, going a combined 8 of 39 (20.5%) from the field. A closer inspection at Rondo’s jump shots from outside the paint shows he made an unfathomable 8% of those jumpers, shooting 1 of 13 on those attempts throughout the 3 games. Woof.

Now it’s one thing to lose your shooting touch, but it’s another to shoot worse from the outside than the 12th man on the local high school JV team. The drastic shift in percentage quickly made the philosophy in guarding Rondo much easier for the Bulls and Magic as they gave him all kinds of room on the perimeter in those contests, practically begging him to keep taking and missing the open looks.

We all saw Rondo’s overall play improve in game 2 as he looked like the Rondo of old, attacking the basket at will but was still unable to hit a jumper to save his life going 1 of 6 from outside the paint.

Some minor signs of progress came in Game 3 as Rondo went 2/7 on jumpers. Not exactly Eddie House numbers there, but given the 8% percentage the C’s had been working with just days earlier, any signs of life were nothing to sneeze at.

That brings us to last night’s glorious game 4. Here is Rondo’s shot chart for the evening:

Not impressed by it? Don’t worry you shouldn’t be. The guy went a fairly pedestrian 3 of 8 on jumpers. The exciting part for Celtics fans though is that

1) That 3 for 8 number matches his season average of 37% on 2 point jumpers exactly i.e. he’s back where he should be

2) Rondo showed confidence while taking and making multiple jumpers.

All year long, it’s been feast or famine with Rondo shooting the ball. When he’s feasting he will make maybe one out of every two jumpers. When the famine hits and Rondo loses confidence as he did at the start of game 6 against Chicago (I blame the Hinrich scuffle for rattling his play for the record) the shooting numbers can fall to drastic depths.

By no means should the mid range shot be a major component in Rondo’s game, all Celtics fans know he is at his best when attacking the rim. No matter what the Celtics do offensively though, there’s a good chance that Rondo is going to have to take those mid range jumpers 3-5 times a game at least. Whether it’s because its a wide open look, shot clock is running down, etc. it’s a shot the C’s need to have Rondo willing to take and take confidently.

Last night for the first time in weeks, Rondo showed he could make an outside shot at a consistent clip. Doc Rivers does not need him to make it 5 or 6 times out of 10 for the C’s to be successful. However, this team can not afford him taking and missing it 8 or 9 times out of 10 which causes it to be a non-threat and non-factor in the offense.

Rondo making those jumpers four out of every 10 attempts will suffice for this team, and that’s exactly what he gave them last night. If the 3rd year guard can keep that pace going through these next three games, their prospects will improve dramatically for making a potential Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the Cavs a reality.

  • http://loscy.wordpress.com Jon Tookem

    What a strange player. Looking at his numbers each night, the dude is a statistical oddity. There are nights when he puts up 6 points and 17 assists, while other games you’ll see 26 points and 5 assists. Rondo is probably one of the top 2 point guard defenseman in the league. He is a terrific perimeter defender that often takes gambles, but his gambles usually work. I haven't seen many players allow his opponents to get slightly free only to step in the passing lane to take the ball… or to let a man slightly get by him so he can poke the ball out from behind.

    My buddy Sean pointed out that Rondo has been stealing rebounds from teammates, which can be true. But, here is the deal: I think you take the whole package. Like in game 2 v. Orlando, he was intense, he was energetic, and most importantly, he wanted and NEEDED the ball in his hands as much as possible last night. If we can see that kind of focus and efficiency that we saw in Game 2 at the cost of taking a few boards away from teammates, so be it. This is the PG we’ve seen through most of the Bulls series and the one we need to move past Orlando. It's 2 out of 3, and whether it's his rebounding, shooting, passing, or whatever, we go where Rondo takes us.

  • http://loscy.wordpress.com Jon Tookem

    Great article, by the way.

  • http://loscy.wordpress.com Jon Tookem

    45-50% is a bit high for now… I mean, shooting 45-50% at 20 feet is what Ray shoots.

    35-40% is more realistic. What's even more realistic than that is choosing 2 places (elbows) to take 300 shots/day in the off season so he can become deadly from THOSE spots.

  • http://www.northstationsports.blogspot.com Nick Gelso

    Brian, great article as usual. Love the use of the shot charts.

    We have to remember where Rondo was last year at this time… he was spending a lot of time on the bench while Sam was filling in! Last year at this time, I was getting so tired of Van Gundy and Jackson ripping apart Rondo's game.

    No doubt the natural progression of his game is to get that 18 footer to fall 45% of the time. We need that from him!

    Anyone hear anything on Perk for game 5???

  • Jordan

    Big Bri, great work as always and we'll hang at Cabots soon, but for once I actually have something to add other than complimenting your sexiness.

    Rondo taking jumpers has a further affect on this team. When he is taking the shots, he is much less able to use one of his greatest talents, which is getting rebounds (especially sneaking in for offensive ones and re-triggering the offense before the D can set). This is compounded by the fact Orlando has some dude named Dwight in the paint who can grab every short rebound in sight – the kind that are likely to result from mid-range jumpers. Add it all up and Rondo taking (and missing) these jump shots is essentially a turnover 70% of the time whereas having someone else take them at least gives Boston somewhat of a chance to steal a board and still get points on the possession.

  • http://www.orlandomagicdaily.com Zach McCann

    When he’s making his jumper even 40 percent of the time, the dude is a menace. Right now, defenders don’t respect his jumper and play 4-5 feet off him on the perimeter, like he’s Tree Rollins or something. If he can get that mid-range percentage up to 45-50 percent, he’s going to be virtually unstoppable to stop from penetrating the lane.

  • http://lifeondumars.com/ toasterhands

    Rondo is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. His potential is unlimited, he might become better than J Kidd. Soon.

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