Always good when the Celtics are confronted with an issue in the first half, but make changes to correct that issue in the second and win handily. Creates a tight little game story, and that makes my job easy! Just kidding, this job is already pretty easy and it’s not actually a job.
The Celtics seemed like they were fixing to be hustled off the floor in the first quarter. Guards like Jodie Meeks, a man who shares his first name with my mother, blistered Ray Allen and particularly Rajon Rondo on the first few plays of the game. Ray was technically assigned to Meeks, but Meeks craftily drifted off Ray defensively so he’d have an edge on him for the race downcourt. Rondo was the only thing standing in Meeks’s way, but because standing was basically all Rondo did, Meeks blew past him and ended up with the ball right under the basket.
Here’s one time the aforementioned happened.
The only good that came of that play was that it forced Tommy Heinsohn to scream that there would be “serious trouble in River City” if it happened again. Then, five minutes later, it did.
The Meeks shall inherit the earth, as the world’s funniest dude would say. Between this guy and Jrue Holiday hitting jumpers right in Rondo’s disinterested face, the Celtics point guard had a pretty lazy defensive quarter. Basically, he kept the game close at both ends: he engineered all of the Celtics offense in the early going, but most of the Sixers offense too.
But the Celtics, not consistent adjustment-makers over the last few weeks, tightened up this time. They got back on defense and forced the Sixers to go halfcourt rather than run right through them, as you can see in this game footage.
This led to the 14-1 run that spanned halftime and put the Sixers in a sufficiently deep hole to take this one. Every single defensive possession for the C’s in that stretch saw them forcing the Sixers to run a halfcourt offense. An interesting thing is that Rondo, in this stretch, was not good defensively. He missed a bunch of rotations and got iced out on picks. Postgame recaps elsewhere have pointed out that Jrue Holiday didn’t score any points in the second half and missed his last eight shots, but a few of those shots looked like this.
Sometimes no defense is the best defense, right? No, that is not right. That video shows some great suffocating help D on Spencer Hawes, but Rondo’s involvement was completely superfluous and he was lucky Holiday missed. It’s another chapter in the very long story of Rondo leaving his man to bite on a steal.
But to reiterate, Rondo’s offense was superb throughout this game. He set virtually every play in motion, and he did it in the halfcourt, which the Celtics execute much better than the Sixers or pretty much anyone. People like to say that Rondo is good because he can “push the tempo,” but this is not true, or at least not completely true. Rondo is good because he can put a pass anywhere and hit his guys at the exact instant they’ve created some space. That’s why he’s good. Jrue Holiday can push the tempo. “Push the Tempo” is a Fatboy Slim song.
The Celtics, when they’re at their best, operate in the half court. They pick apart defenses with ball movement and stymie that same ball movement on the other end. They’re not fast. They’re old. Rondo is capable of running a fast break, and that can be a weapon when implemented judiciously. But when the Celtics need points, there’s nothing wrong with waiting for everyone to drag their old bones up the court and running plays. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? The hare jumped out in front with a few fastbreak points, but then he fell asleep under the scorer’s table, but the tortoise couldn’t score because his stumpy appendages were totally incapable of controlling a basketball so he lost anyway. That’s not relevant.