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Video: Rondo Wrinkles and The Return of the Scrum

 

Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen both had huge games on Sunday, and they did so primarily against the defenders the Lakers want guarding them—Kobe for Rondo, Fisher for Ray. But that doesn’t mean the Celtics love both of those match-ups, or that they should stop mixing things up in order to force switches and keep LA wondering what will come next.

One wrinkle we saw a couple of times early: Having Ray Allen set a high screen for Rondo to see how the Lakers react. Do they switch, giving the Celtics the Rondo/Fisher match-up LA clearly doesn’t love? Does Kobe just go under the screen and stick with Rajon? And if he does that, can the Celtics still muck things up enough to give Rondo an extra slice of space/time?

Here are examples from consecutive possessions in the 2nd quarter:

All sorts of goodness going on here.

The Celtics get into this set quickly, forcing the Lakers to decide early how they want to respond. Fisher makes the call by leaving Allen as Ray sets the screen and positioning himself to guard Rondo:

What happens is predictable: The C’s clear out the middle and let Rondo go to work:

The finish shows you both how good Rondo has gotten around the rim and how big an impact Andrew Bynum is having on this series. You see Gasol guarding Sheed on the left block. If Bynum is injured as he was in 2008, one of two things happens here: 1) Gasol helps on Rondo, leaving Wallace open for an easy look; or, 2) That is Odom, not Bynum, streaking down from the top of the key to contest Rondo’s shot. Either way, life would have been much easier on Boston with Bynum in street clothes. Having two capable seven footers is such a luxury.

The C’s go right back to the same play on the next possession, but the Lakers respond differently:

Fisher sticks right on Allen’s back, allowing Kobe to slide under both Fisher and Allen without drifting too far from Rondo:

This strategy works better, though you can see the Lakers are super-concerned with Allen zooming off his pick and into shooting position. Watch how Kobe lunges to his right as Ray cuts to that side of the floor, and then to his left as Ray circles to that side. He’s trying to at least convince Rondo that he’s a threat to jump the passing lane on any quick dish to Ray.

In any case, Kobe does a better job of staying in front of Rondo, and the possession dissolves into chaos. I think Phil Jackson is right that the Lakers are generally better off with Kobe on Rajon, and this possession shows you why. Kobe is a better fundamental defender than Fisher, he’s just as quick (probably quicker) and his length bothers Rondo in the paint.

One other way the C’s can try and spring Rajon: The Rugby Scrum! You all know I love the Scrum. We haven’t seen it as much in the playoffs as we did in the regular season, when the C’s broke this baby out between two and five times per game, but it made two appearances in Game 2. Here’s one:

This play presents so many possibilities when the C’s use two jump-shooting bigs to set the double screen, as they do here with Sheed and KG. It allows for simultaneous pick-and-pops, a Rondo drive or a forced switch of Rondo’s guy (Farmar in this case) onto one of the screeners.

Bynum sniffs the play out early:

Look at all that space between Bynum and Rondo! That’s a lot of time, at least in the basketball sense of time, for Bynum to prepare for what has to be a pretty terrifying-slash-exciting moment for a 7-footer: Holy crap, here comes Rondo, and I’m the team’s last hope!

And again, Bynum does a wonderful job of preventing a direct-to-the-hoop lay-in. Rondo has to stop and pull one of his patented fakes to score here. It works, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work next time.

Still: Fear The Rugby Scrum.

Finally, this clip doesn’t represent a new wrinkle; it’s just Rajon Rondo being awesome. In fact, if a casual fan (and at this point, the fan would have to be a really casual fan) asks you what all the fuss is about this Rondo kid who can’t shoot, you could really just show the fan this play:

That really epitomizes Rondo, doesn’t it? The rebound, the immediate decision to push the ball even though there’s no obvious fast-break chance, the ability to always know where Ray Allen is in transition—this is Rondo in a nutshell.

Again: He creates a fast break out of thin air on this play. Here’s what things look like when Rondo grabs the board:

I see three Lakers and four Celtics, meaning there are two Lakers off the screen, already retreating back on defense. And I see Rondo’s man, Jordan Farmar, between Rondo and mid-court, albeit just barely. Still: This is not a fast-break opportunity at this moment. Rondo creates a transition chance that did not exist by simply deciding to do so. He spins off of Farmar and sprints up the floor, blowing past Bynum and manufacturing a fast break.

Note the pass to Ray is off-line, forcing Ray to make a nifty catch before he gathers and shoots. Also note that it doesn’t even matter, because Ray’s guy (Shannon Brown) is at the freaking block/charge circle by the time the pass gets to Allen. He’s there to cut off Rondo and prevent a fast-break lay-up that should never have been available to Boston.

This is Balls to the Wall Rondo. This is the guy Boston needs to win the title. It is hard to play this way every game, with all the injuries and hard falls and the post-season minutes piling up.

Cross your fingers and hope this Rondo comes to play tonight.

  • DeVelaine

    Y’know… This game, and plays like this, make the claim of Rondo being a Finals MVP not entirely out of the question. We get 3 more games like he had in Game 2 from him, and I can’t see giving it to anyone else.

    Unless, you know, Ray Allen just totally goes off again for the rest of the series and gives the Lakers nightmares of a partially-to-wide open RA draining threes at will no matter what they do.

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

    Thinking way too far ahead, my friend. Respect the Lakers. Each and every game will be a dogfight to win by a point.

  • Perry

    Great stuff.

    Bynum may prove me wrong, but I see him dithering in Boston and a flip-flop in the Garnett-Gasol match up going green.

    That high double screen is all the more reason for Doc to play Kevin and Sheed together. Davis can knock those pick and pops down too.

    Celts only shot 42% in game 2, but 14 of those missed shots were blocked! Get the Laker bigs’ moving away from the paint. Kevin must be established early so we can see the luxury of his perimeter game spacing the floor.

    Celts are now 13-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents to under 100 pts.

  • NHBluesMan

    i think the C’s will take 2 at home, with the lakers stealing a game, but just barely. However, it would be so sweet to win all 3 and show the world why you should never sleep on a team with the heart of a champion (even though i know there would be tons of people saying they got lucky, or the refs gave them the series, or whatever excuses they can come up with)

  • Jay P

    Unrelated official talk, because I love to bitch about them, from the Globe:

    “The NBA has announced the officiating crew for tonight’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden.

    Dan Crawford, Bill Kennedy and Bennett Salvatore have been assigned. ”

    So we got a guy in Kennedy who despises Doc Rivers. Salvatore who tossed Rivers earlier in the season on back-to-back asinine techs, after he called a ridiculous flagrant on Baby. And Crawford, well I got nothing bad on Crawford, but those two alone make it bad enough.

    Least Jackson and Salvatore don’t get along either, but expect a parade of whistles tonight. Forget the “home court advantage” when it comes to these guys, it aint gonna matter.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    No ref thread-jacks! Just kidding. But I do think it’s useless to bitch about ‘em.

  • Parker

    Sorry Perry I can’t see why anyone would feel the Garnett-Gasol match-up becoming good for the Celtics. The Celtics need to get 2 out of 3 in Boston and most likely game 3 to win. The pressure is on Boston to win tonight and I hope KG can show us something.

    I have to say I am impressed with Perkins so far-he has kept his cool much better and hasn’t been close to a T yet. I thought for sure he would get a T and decide the series at some point and hope he can hold off.

  • Jay P

    But it’s so much fun!

  • DeVelaine

    @Zach: Even if I am thinking a bit too far ahead, I’m just providing what appears to be reasonable comments from the “If the C’s Win” POV. I don’t expect them to take all three in Boston, as I fully expect this series to go back to LA, and here’s hoping with a 3-2 series lead. Still… I don’t think anyone can deny it now that Rondo is basically making this his show, and in probably in line for some extra accolades later. Who would have envisioned this sort of talk being reasonable at the start of the 2007-2008 season?

  • GranTur

    Game 2 was fun to watch. I see even better execution and better shots for the Celtics in game 3.

  • Jay P

    Ideally, I’d like to see them take Games 3 and 4. I think it’s unlikely they’ll win 3 in a row, but it would be the best case scenario.

    I don’t see them sweeping at home, and I think if they go 3-1, LA is going to come with a desperation they wont be able to match, since if they take 1 in Boston, they have a chance to close out at home. So I see them scratching and clawing a Game 5 Victory.

    Then I’d bet my house on Boston closing it in Game 6, they’ve shown and incredible ability to bounce back from losses as if they never happened to take care of business (see: Game 4 vs. Cleveland, Game 6 vs. Orlando.)

    They’ve still only last back to back once this postseason, the Game 5 circus fest agaisnt Orlando (fluke, insane game of horrible officiating and ridiculous shooting.)

    What worries me, is what I think is the most likely scenario. Boston takes Game 3, LA Game 4, Boston bounces back for Game 5.

    Once the series shifts back to LA in that case, anything can happen. LA is going to come out in 6 and 7 with force and desperation, and be playing at home, but Boston has closed out two series, agaisnt the best regular season teams in the NBA, on the road. I have no idea what could happen…

    But god is it going to be fun to watch.

    Anyway, in either scenario, I stick to my original prediction, Celtics in 6.

  • Coolin

    Just take it game-by-game, hopefully the way the Celtics are doing it.
    I expect Garnett to play 2-3 years younger than he did in LA.
    I just hope Rondo plays under control and does not try and do too much, like he tends to do after a triple double game.
    I see Paul Pierce making at least 2-3 3 pt. fg’s and Ray Allen staying hot.
    Boston by 6 to 9 pts. bring it on!

  • Sophomore

    Great breakdown. Doc has to find some time for Nate, to make sure Rondo’s able to push the ball when possible and execute in the half-court sets at the end of the game.

  • Perry

    @Parker

    I think Kevin is more than capable of putting up numbers close to Gasol’s, and if that becomes a storyline it works in the Celtics’ favor. Kevin is too good, and too proud to be this dormant for this long. He will break out of his funk, and by the way, as Brian pointed out the Laker bigs were M.I.A. in the fourth quarter of game two.

    I’ve watched both games twice, and I cannot discern a problem with his lateral movement — although the shoulder issue worries me. Quite simply he was outplayed in game one, and lost his rhythm in game two because of the foul trouble. He did however manage to score a critical shot with 2:38 left, and looked like an offensive tackle setting two picks for Rondo who converted on both possessions. With Kevin it’s not only about scoring, but a little home cookin’ is always a good remedy in building back the stroke.

  • Devon

    @ Sophomore: I feel that Nate is some sort of enigmatic force. If Doc puts him in during the first half, which is highly unlikely due to him being a fatigue based sub rather than a rotationally based one, Nate will flourish. The key is to put him in against the Lakers bench. I think I feel better about his potential judgment lapses against the likes of Vulacrotch and Farmar than Fish and KB. The wrinkle in that logic is that Phil didn’t put Vulashit in until the start of the fourth. I still fear Nate is too much of a liability unless he’s on the floor with SHEE- SHEE. They cancel each other out right?

    Note to Sheed: The bag of chips is yours for the taking (literally speaking). I will promise you as many ho-ho’s and ring dings as you want for the off-season if you continue to show up. Sheed this IS a BIG game…

  • Urbeltic

    I love the video breakdown. The scrum really is a sweet play and seems to be a very efficient play that uses all 5 players key skills. Also, on the last video is amazing too…rondo looks like a track star running with a ball.

  • Devon

    Nate scored 7 points in six minutes yet his + – was still negative 3 for the game.

  • DeVelaine

    @ Jay P: Cleveland and Orlando both lost in Game 6, while Miami lost in Game 5. All three of the C’s close out games have been at home this year. But I do think they can get it done in LA. If anyone can, it’s this team.

  • Devon

    @ Zach: I love the rugby scrum… Imagine he fakes next time and Bynum doesn’t bite. RR has the option of a likely open KG 15 footer or a Sheed three. In fact I would love the double screen employed a great deal more often. Though the thought of a Glen and Perk double screen roll doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of the basketball Gods. Unless RR has some more tricks up his sleeve. I so f’n excited I’m likely to find early stage geriatric incontinence at any moment. Go GREEN TEAM!!!!!!!!!

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I agree with what Jeff Van Gundy was saying. The lake’s bigs are pretty quick & aggressive— maybe too reactive. If you can spread the court & then drive there is a great chance that you will draw 2 of their bigs. If someone is cutting you can throw the wrap around pass to the cutter. The laker big who is coming to help against the C driving the ball is leaving his man wide open to cut to the front of the rim. If Rajon draws (& he has drawn 3 of the laker’s bigs before) & our bigs don’t cut with their hands ready for the pass then Rajon just gets smothered. Perk, Sheed, KG, Glen, Paul have to do a much better job of cutting for Rondo. One play, Paul got into the lane & drew 2 or 3 lakers. Glen cut with his hands out ready for the pass & got a much easier look at the basket. The lakers have great speed to the ball, but sometimes they overreact with too many bigs on 1 driver. The Cs should take advantage of this overly aggressive D.

    I think they will really crowd Ray Ray so Ray should have some great opportunities to drive. If their bigs rotate then our bigs could have a huge night ***IF*** they will cut. The biggest problem is that sometimes our bigs just want to be spectators instead of actively moving toward the rim when the man guarding them has left them.

    If I went by the refs I would not watch this game. I will be very surprised if the lakers fans do not feel much, much, much better with the refs in this game. Benny is a hater. Best example is the Hawks game where he sent them to the line nearly double. I remember that game & him distinctly because it was the biggest regular season game with the most complaints about the refs. Bill Kennedy is the guy who would not just walk on down the court but kept staring at Doc. When Doc turned around & said “what?” Kennedy threw him out of the game. Even after the game, Doc said Kennedy was trying to bait him. Then, you have Dan Crawford. Rajon can forget about getting to the free throw line. In the first Orlando game Rajon was clearly fouled several times. One of the fouls was replayed in slow mo with Jeff Van Gundy, Mr. BANG, & Mr. Hand down man down all asking how Dan could have missed such an obvious foul. Rondo was VERY active that game, but got to the free throw line ZERO times (Dan was more than happy to send Jameer Nelson to the line for 7 free throws). 2nd Orlando game, Rondo was active again & got 6 free throws since Dan was not there. Is justice blind?

  • Jay P

    @DeVelaine

    Whoa, ya, not sure how I screwed that one up. Complete brain fart.

  • Perry

    @Cptn Bubbles

    Celts NOW 13-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents to under 100 pts.

    Defense PLEASE!

  • Cptn Bubbles

    @Perry

    Amen!!! I’m right there with you brother on that one.

    Everyone knows Kobe is a very intelligent & savvy player. The press kept asking him questions about the offense, & Kobe was like, ‘hey, I keep telling you guys it’s all about our defense.’ He sounded like Doc.

    Rajon had a fantastic game with that triple double & that beautiful block, but if you look at the first 6 minutes of the game (the part that Doc complained about during the in game interview) you can see the lake deliberately attacked Rajon with great success. Once again, Fish was attacking Rajon. 1st play Fish hits free throw line jumper vs Rondo. 2nd play Fish gets into the lane (ARGH!) & subsequently to the line because Rajon can only reach since he was lazy about getting back. 3rd play NO ball pressure on Pau (who is a great passer) who EASILY lobs the ball to Kobe being played by Rajon. Ray has never been much of a rebounder so he should be sprinting back to cover Kobe. Rajon should also be running back harder taking Fish as a serious threat. I know Rajon can run the court faster to get back on D. How do I know? Just look how Jon sprinted back on D to cover Kobe when he got that steal & foul off on Kobe. Rondo is much better when he plays in frenzied mode. There will be a few more turnovers, but all the other good things outweigh those extra few to’s. Unfortunately, Rajon plays his very best, most focused D when his offense is clicking. His best offense comes from transition. The only way to fast break is to rebound missed shots or get steals.

    It sounds funny, but above all else Rajon MUST DEFENSIVE rebound. Another breaking of double digits is exactly what we need. When Rajon defensive rebounds the fast break is only a turn & a step away….& it feeds his defensive intensity leading to more steals & defensive rebounds leading to more fast breaks leading to more energy on defense……

    If Rajon is flat TA needs to be put in the game because TA pressures the ball more than the other Cs leading to more deflections & turnovers which feeds Rajon & gets him into frenzied mode.

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