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A Thing That Works

Back when the C’s played the Bobcats earlier this season, I noted a string of Rondo-based plays that started in an usual place: Along the left sideline, just across midcourt. That’s a tight spot far, far from the hoop. I wondered whether the C’s ran screen/rolls that far away as an on-the-fly response to Charlotte’s pressure defense or as some pre-planned strategy. 

Whatever the nature of the strategy, those plays worked like magic. 

We saw a string of them again this week against Golden State, and they worked again. Whether they worked in these cases because the opponents (one good defensive team and one awful one) defended them stupidly is an open question. But as we search for ways to jump start Rondo against teams that sag off of him completely (i.e. Orlando), this play—and the idea of involving Rondo in more screen/rolls in general—is something to keep in mind. Would it work against the Magic? Who knows.

Here’s one clip from the Warriors game.


As you can see early in the clip, Rondo notices something as he approaches midcourt and waves at Perk to get in position. We’ll look at some still images, after the jump.



Here’s a shot from early in the play. As you can, Rondo has jumped the Perk screen, so speak—he’s accelerating with his head down well before Perk has gotten his feet set. This is probably because Rondo notices Perk’s man—Anthony Randolph—is not prepared to cut off the sideline, which is where Rajon wants to go. Note the big three standing passively as far from the play as possible. This is clearly something the team works on.


Here we see Rondo (literally a blur) about to turn the corner and get by Randolph. Notice Ray Allen’s man (Anthony Morrow) pointing toward the foul reason for some reason. My guess is that Morrow is concerned about Perk rolling uncontested to the basket and is motioning for Paul Pierce’s man (Raja Bell) to shift toward the paint and cut off Perk. 

Also note that KG’s man (Corey Maggette) has already shifted toward the basket to defend against a possible Rondo lay-in or take the charge. 


Look at that. Bell has indeed moved over to cut off Perkins, Morrow has left Ray Allen completely and Maggette is about to get knocked over. Pierce and Allen may not be more wide open all season. Could the Warriors have played this better? Before we got there, let’s look at another example.


Here, KG serves as the screener instead of Perk. And if you watch the early part of this clip closely, you’ll see that Rondo actually dribbles backwards a couple of steps toward midcourt to angle his man (Monta Ellis) for the KG screen and (I’d guess, anyway) to get some space so he’s dribbling fast by the gets to Radman. 


KG’s man (Vlad Radmanovic) plays this better than Randolph did in the prior example. KG is not yet set for his screen, and Radman has already shaded well over toward the sideline. It won’t end up stopping Rajon from turning the corner, but the effort is nice. Please note Randolph hanging out at the foul line, watching the action unfold.



Rajon has turned the corner, and two things are different this time. The first is that Maggette (here guarding Pierce), perhaps thinking back to the earlier three-pointer, is watching Rondo but creeping back toward Pierce/Allen. There will be no one under the rim to take a charge or contest a lay-up. The second is that Anthony Randolph is too late reacting to the drive. He’s running hard now, but he got started too late. The easy lay-in results.

I’m not sure what the proper way to defend this play is. My hunch is that the best thing to do—and maybe what a smart team like Orlando would do—is just back off of Rondo completely instead of guarding him out there and giving the C’s the option of working a screen/roll. It’s probably also a good idea to do whatever possible to prevent Rondo from turning the corner along the sideline. It sounds weird to say it would be better to force a point guard to the middle, but, in this set, it might be—the weak side defenders on Pierce/Allen have much less distance to travel if Rondo penetrates to the foul line area instead of the baseline. 

Again—who knows if this play could work against good teams/Orlando. But it seems to provide a spark when the C’s have the chance to use it.

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