For 8:08 of Sunday’s game against the Knicks, we saw something we literally never saw during meaningful minutes last season, according to 82games: Rajon Rondo on the floor with four bench players. Before the season, I pitched the idea of a Rondo + Bench Mob Line-Up as one way to reduce the minutes burden on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
In the past two seasons, the burden has fallen only to Pierce and Allen to play with four back-ups during those stretches at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters, according to a list of the team’s most commonly-used line-ups on 82games. Those are high-responsibility minutes for star players, since the quality around them is lower than normal.
So Perhaps Doc sent a message with the 4:06 stint at the start of the 2nd quarter and the 4:02 stint at the start of the 4th against the Knicks: You are ready, Rajon.
So how did those line-ups do?
Not so well.
The Celtics played the first 4:06 of the 2nd quarter with Rondo-Wallace-Williams-House-Daniels. The group scored 8 points in 9 possessions on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor, including three missed three-pointers (two from Sheed). The highlight: A textbook pick-and-roll on the right side between Rondo/Williams, on which Rajon found a rolling Shelden for an easy lay-up. This was perhaps the only time the Knicks did something other than duck under the screen on a screen/roll involving Rajon, and Rondo made them pay.
Defensively, this line-up was fine—they allowed 10 points on 10 New York possessions. The Knicks shot 4-of-7 and turned the ball over twice.
So, net points: MINUS TWO.
Doc started the 4th quarter with same line-up, except Scal swapped in for Shelden. The results were the same: Bad offense, good defense.
The line-up scored just four points on eight possessions and just 2-of-7 shooting. Sheed was 0-of-3, with one missed three-pointer and two misses from the post. Rondo drew one shooting foul and clanked both free throws.
On the other end, the line-up game up just for points on seven possessions plus a technical free throw courtesy of Sheed’s endless yapping.
So, net points in the 4th quarter: MINUS 1
Overall, the Rondo + Bench Mob scored just 12 points on 17 possessions and yielded 14 points on 17 possessions. Terrible offense, solid defense. Overall, they were MINUS 3 if you include the technical free throw.
Some things that stand out in this (very, very, very) small sample size:
1) Sheed has to score if this line-up is going to work. It’s interesting that five of his six attempts in the game came during this 8:08 span and just one during the remaining seven minutes he played. That suggests he and the coaching staff understand he must play a larger role when paired with lesser players. If he can’t do it, this line-up will continue to struggle offensively. In fact, Sheed’s early numbers on 82games (very, very, very early numbers) show the C’s play worse on offense but better on defense when he’s on the floor.
2) Rondo has to get over this early free throw thing. I don’t care if he has to see a witch doctor, drink chicken blood before games or dig up some evil gypsy woman’s grave like my ex-girlfriend Alison Lohman in “Drag Me to Hell.” He has got to figure this out, if only because his ability to get to the rim as a scorer could take on greater importance in a Rondo + Bench Mob line-up.
Either way, I applaud Doc for trying this. He is being more diligent than ever before in limiting Pierce, Allen and KG’s numbers. Example: He played both KG and Pierce heavy first-half minutes against the Magic and then sat them for the first 5:38 of the 4th quarter so their overall minute totals returned to their season norms. Last year? Doc gets caught up in the moment, goes all out for the win and plays those guys 41 minutes.
Now is the time for experimentation.