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End-Game Offense: No Rondo?

 

As I was lying in bed thinking of last night’s exciting Memphis game (What? You don’t think of the Celtics as you’re lying in bed?), something dawned on me: When the C’s went into their crunch-time halfcourt offense in the last 2:00 of the game, that offense didn’t really include Rajon Rondo.

As just about everyone noted in their recaps of the game, the C’s went to one of their stand-by Big Three plays on their final three possessions of the game—the Pierce/KG pick-and-pop. And it’s a great play, and it worked perfectly the first two times they used it.

But it doesn’t include Rondo in any real way.

I have no idea whether this is significant, insignificant, totally unreasonable nit-picking on my part, over-analyzing or whatever. A sign that confidence in Rondo’s jumper and foul-shooting isn’t quite there yet? Or a recognition of match-up advantages KG and Pierce had against shaky defenders in Gay and Randolph?

It’s just a thought I had.

What do you all think?

  • jonathan

    Any well-coached team will simply force Rondo to either shoot a jumper or send him to the line if he drives to the hoop. Until he develops a reliable jumper or starts to convert at a 70% rate from the charity stripe (he’s 62% for his career and 52% this year), he never should be involved in a two-man offense late in a close game. Not a big deal now when he’s the fourth best player on the team but when Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are gone…

  • Idaho

    And vice-versa…Sounds like smart coaching from Doc. I am actually glad to hear that. I am a broken record, but I don’t want Rondo with the ball at the end of the game, even as a distributor. But his recent play has given me more confidence and I imagine Doc will start trusting him more if he continues to improve and make plays at the end of games.

  • Idaho

    Zachary,

    Speaking of late-night C’s thoughts in bed, with a small sample size of 23 games and few losses and probably lacking a normal distribution couldn’t you run a logistic regression with each statistic reviewed by Zach. So for each of the big 3 players and Rondo you could determine which combination of factors (statistics) explain wins vs. losses for each player. Then you could take the best model for each player and compare them amongst players and see who has the best model explaining wins vs. losses.

    You could pick the best model using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) and throw out the factors that have high correlation coefficients (which you would think some of them would be as Zach mentioned).

    Just a thought and it would probably be more fun to do when they have played more games. Obviously this analysis is flawed bc there is an interaction among players that best predicts wins versus losses but I am sure someone smarter than myself (like you) could limit the assumptions with a certain analysis and come up with a model for each player.

    That is what you have to love about the game in the end…the intangibles that cannot be quantified with data = swag

  • Mack

    I think it is an over reaction Zach just because Rondo doesn’t have the ball in his hands in those it’s because that is your bread and butter play down the stretch with your 2 future hall of fame closers that all nothing more nothing less because if you remember against Washington it was Rondo KG pick and roll for the dunk and against the spurs Rondo had the ball late a hit the big free throw line jumper so I think it might be over reacting

  • Chris

    “Any well-coached team will simply force Rondo to either shoot a jumper or send him to the line if he drives to the hoop.”

    Why doesn’t this counter-strategy apply to non end-of-game situations, then? The Celtics, at least, seem to think having the ball in Rondo’s hands for the majority of the game is a very good thing…but Zach is correct in pointing out that this generally changes in the final minutes of close games when they tend to revert to KG/Pierce pick and rolls.

    In my mind it has more to do with the added psychological pressure of performing in game-winning / game-losing situations and the fact that Rondo still hasn’t shown he can consistently make good decisions in these stressful situations. Pierce / KG have been doing it for over a decade.

    Still, I think makes sense to allow Rondo more leeway here during the regular season, even if it means losing a few more games, so that he can better prepare himself mentally for such situations in the play-offs.

  • jonathan

    Chris,

    Forcing Rondo to shoot jumpers is the main strategy throughout the game. It’s sometimes harder to do than you’d think as it takes a good defensive scheme and a good smart defensive player to alter his normal game. Look at the other poster’s comment on the Washington game – that was simply Gilbert playing horrible defense. The problem is that sending him to the line only works when you’re not too concerned with accumulating fouls. Fouling Rondo every time he drives in the first half would simply put you in the penalty way to early each quarter and put your big men in foul trouble. At the end of the game there is usually no such concern, and fouling Rondo if he penetrates is generally the smart option. Odds are he makes one of two and you get the ball back. It’s like hack-a-shaq. Maybe we can call it rake-a-rondo…

  • Chris

    Jonathan,

    Yeah I recognize the fact that Rondo’s inability to consistently make jumpers / free-throws is a huge liability and that most teams structure their defenses around this fact, generally by sagging off of Rondo. The question was more in regards to what aspects of the game state change in the final few minutes of a game such that the Celtics decide to deviate from *their* general game plan of letting Rondo initiate the offense.

    Your point about the viability of fouling Rondo throughout the course of the game vs. fouling him in a final minutes of the game makes sense. The value of fouls change, and thus the value of fouling Rondo changes.

    It still might be useful to let Rondo run things at the end of games, however, both because I’m not convinced teams will respond correctly [ie, will not foul him at every opportunity] and because the experience will be beneficial long-term.

    There are so many instances where coaches seem to make mistakes late-game in terms of fouling…refusing to foul an opposing team when up by 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining, failing to target weak free-throw shooters on the other team when behind by 1 or 2 points even if those weak free-throw shooters are off-the-ball, etc, etc.

  • denton

    I thought the same thing as it happened. I think Rondo had the ball in the p&r for several possessions before PP got it for the last 3. If I recall correctly, we didn’t get anything on Rondo’s last p&r (last 2?) so I saw Pierce getting it more as an on the fly adjustment– Rondo had his chances to make plays, now it was Pierce’s turn.

    I think if Rondo was making the Grizz pay on those opportunities, they would’ve kept feeding the pig, as they like to do.

  • Vince

    I wouldn’t make too much of Rondo’s lack of involvement during the final minutes of a close game. The whole point of having a stud closer like PP (or Ray or KG for that matter) is to give them the opportunity to win the game. When the Celts need one basket, isn’t the 3-4 pick&pop their best chance? And if its working, wouldn’t a good coach keep going to it until the other team stops it? Paul has shown the ability to drive and kick to KG, or get himself a layup or foul shots. Nothing against Rondo, but I don’t think he’s experienced enough to take on that responsibility yet.

    Also, factor in Rondo’s jumper and free throw shooting, and it becomes a lower percentage play to give him the ball and let him create. No question Rondo is emerging as a star and is going to be a great PG for this team, but opposing defenses know they can give him the jumper or put him on the line – until he makes those consistently.

    Which brings me back to the main point: you know who makes those clutch jumpers and free throws consistently? Paul, Ray, and KG. That’s why they are the Big 3.

  • jonathan

    Chris,

    I think that Paul Pierce creating as opposed to Rondo is always a better option, but it’s impossible to ask him or any other scorer to do so over the entire 48 minutes. So having Rondo initiate the offensive during the majority of the game gives the Celtics a better chance to be in position with a relatively fresh Pierce to take over down the stretch when individual possessions become more important.

    I do agree that it might be beneficial in the long run to give Rondo the chance on occasion this season. It’s something Phil Jackson does (let players figure things out) during the regular season which pays off in the playoffs. But I think more important than experience is learning to convert jumpers and from the foul line. Plus, for all his physical gifts, Rondo is nothing more than average when it comes to making decisions under pressure.

    And as for coaches? Well, when I spoke of well-coached teams I only had about four or five in mind. Although the blame sometimes needs to go to the players who show an astonishingly inability to consistently make the smart play when needed.

  • Vic De Zen

    I think it was about matchups. Doc knows how good Rondo is.

    …I think.

  • TBall

    I don’t think there was anything to it, beyond match-ups. In the closing minutes against the Wizards, which was knotted with two minutes remaining, Rondo delivered by getting to the basket for an uncontested dunk and making a 7-foot jumper. You could ask why Ray was only involved for accidental offense as well.

    One game, one ball, someone has to get it.

  • JD

    Clearly you lost all memory of the last few close games before the Memphis game. Rondo hit the dagger jumper in the Philly game, in the Spurs game, and he of course came up with 4 points in the final two minutes against Washington. I think its just a matter of matchups, not any confidence issue in Rondo making plays. Personally, I’m perfectly with either Rondo or Pierce making a play at the end of the game, does not matter to me, as long as Doc chooses the right one for that particular night (matchups, whose hot, etc.).

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @JD: No memory loss here. I have all those games on tape. As I said in the actual post, this was just a stray thought about an individual game.

    That said, I do think this game is a bit distinct from some of the others you mention. The Philly shot came on something of a broken play, and the dunk against the ‘Zards came because of a terrible defensive breakdown.

    Against Memphis, the C’s had time to set up their halfcourt offense on three straight possessions (at least one of which, I believe, came after a timeout) and three straight times chose to go to the 3/4 screen/roll.

  • DeVelaine

    I just have to remember who was failing in their attempts to play defense against KG. Was it Randolph? If so, that was a matchup to exploit time and time again. Rondo didn’t have the ball in crunch time? Oh well. Really… I only wanted to see the ball in the hands of Pierce or RA. And his expression after that dagger three just said “Of course it was going in. Who would think otherwise?”

  • RJ

    i think that depends on the situation. remember the Rondo slam in Washington?

  • sal

    Its funny how celtics fans think alike. After watching the highlight reel of the last 3 plays of the game, it dawned to me that pierce was put in control of the ball all three times. at first i thought it was a bit odd but then i brushed it off, it made me realize how many great players we actually have. When you have players like allen, kg, pierce, and rondo, your left with array of options. Doc just decided to go with a different one tonight, and it worked. Maybe tm night it will be rondo and the next night it will be allen, who knows. But the point is, the lakers are horrible. :)

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    i was also wondering about rondo not bringing the ball up at the end as i thought he had a solid night….confused me more when he got the player of the game afterwards.

    its great to have the luxury of PP…but agree with @jonathon that the regular season is also for learning. PP may give u the best chance to win the game, but i would think they want to throw rondo into the fire as much as possible.

  • cool hand luke

    It’s wonderful to have so many options. And think, the fifth and last option has the highest FG% in the league.

  • j folger

    All about those free throws in the last minute. I really believe he will get that FT percentage up and improve the jump shot more and more. Perennial All-Star/max contract player when/if that happens.

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  • takeit

    In that 1 game against memphis they went with the pierce/kg pick and roll….its not like its been that way in every close game, so to relate one game to every game makes no sense, rondo has taken over 3/4 of our games this season in the 4th…
    But the Pierce/KG pick n roll is a package that we will always occasioanly go to in late game situation…why not?

  • http://Aol.com Matt

    Wow lots of opinions here. Now time for my quick 2cents.
    First things first. PP/KG pick or screen and roll or pop is incredibly hard to defend. Paul is crafty (more reliAble than pure athleticism) and KG is still able to shoot long twos and can still make great cuts and Finnish. And if that wasn’t enough you have the purest shooter of all time (no appologies I thought this before he ever dawned Celtic green) Ray Jesus Allen !! Would you be calling any plays for rondo? Easy answer….no! More well thought out answer…..no! Not unless Paul ray and Kevin were either unable….or ice cold, had the best defenders on them and rondo allready had a tripdub and was on fire!!! Like NBA jam on fire! Then my answer would still be no for rondo but I would atleast consider it.

  • http://Aol.com Matt

    Nothing Against rondo at all. It’s pretty obvious…we have paul fricken pierce! Hof PP! shot for shot with bronbron PP! Flaker killer PP! no brainer. Rondo will have his days and his shine believe that….but this is about ridding the big three till they Retire.
    That’s what it is going to have to be atleast this year. I don’t think that doc doesn’t trust rondo…because he has befor and does now. I see it as a match up problem for the grizz and the C’s recognition of that weakness and the simple mind set of we will run it till u can stop it! And then run it some more till u make us pay for doing so.

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