How Rajon Rondo did his damage in game four

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Rajon Rondo had one of the best games in the playoffs in game four, destroying the Cleveland Cavaliers with his scoring, rebounding, and passing. In game three, the Cavaliers had success slowing Rondo down by packing the paint in the half-court and forcing him to stay on the perimeter. In game four, Boston was able to get out on the break much more. Rondo thrived in the full-court game, and now the Cavs are searching for a way to slow Rondo down in game five.

With that in mind, let’s look at how Rondo got his points and assists in game four. Do they need to make adjustments in the half-court game, such as switching LeBron James onto Rondo, or do they need to focus on limiting Boston’s transition opportunities? Let’s see:

Scoring:

In transition (7 seconds or less after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo makes layup six seconds after a missed three

-Rondo draws a shooting foul two seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo draws shooting foul four seconds after a three-point miss

-Rondo draws shooting foul four seconds after a Boston block

-Rondo draws shooting foul seven seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo makes layup four seconds after a Cavalier turnover

In semi-transition (8-10 seconds after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo draws shooting foul nine seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo draws shooting foul nine seconds after missed three-pointer

After dead-ball situations (Boston takes it from out of bounds):

-Rondo makes assisted 7-footer

-Rondo makes layup

-Rondo makes 19-foot jumper

-Rondo makes 17-foot jumper

-Rondo makes 16-point shot

-Rondo makes floater

Other:

-Rondo makes floater after offensive rebound

-Rondo is intentionally fouled with 17 seconds to play

Rondo only scored 12 points against the Cavaliers when the Celtics were forced to take it from out of bounds, and six of those 12 points came on jump shots. Considering he only shot 9-21 from the field, the Cavs should be willing to live with how they defended Rondo’s scoring in half-court situations — it was in the open floor where Rondo drew all those fouls and really did his damage. But what about the assists?

Assists:

Transition (7 seconds or less after a Cleveland turnover or miss):

-Rondo finds T. Allen for a dunk five seconds after a Cleveland turnover

-Rondo finds Davis for a layup seven seconds after a Cleveland turnover

Semi-Transition (8-10 seconds after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo finds R. Allen for 8-foot shot 9 seconds after a missed three

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a three 8 seconds after a miss

-Rondo finds Davis for a layup eight seconds after a Boston block

Half-Court Situation:

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a 20-foot jumper

-Rondo finds Garnett for a make

-Rondo finds Tony Allen for layup

-Rondo finds Garnett for a jump shot at the end of the shot clock

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a jump shot

-Rondo finds T. Allen for a layup

Other:

-Rondo finds Garnett for a layup six seconds after a Cleveland make

-Rondo finds Pierce for a dunk after an offensive rebound

-Again, only 12 of the 27 points created by Rondo’s assists came in half-court situations. Rondo had an amazing game, but Cleveland can live with what he did in the half-court. In game five, limiting Rondo’s transition opportunities by turning the ball over less (17 for the Cavs in game three), giving Boston fewer chances to run off of long rebounds (17 missed threes for the Cavs), getting some offensive rebounds (the Cavs had three all game), and getting blocked less (the Cavs had eight of their shots blocked), will be just as important in stopping Rondo as anything they do when he has the ball.

Rondo is too quick, too good around the basket, too athletic, and too good of a passer to be stopped in the open court. If the Cavs want to slow him down at all, they can’t allow him to play his game.

Steven Adams says Thunder late-game struggles on him, not Westbrook/George/Anthony

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In the first half of games this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 91.7 points per 100 possessions. In those first 24 minutes, the Thunder are outscoring teams by 12.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA (Houston is first).

However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense is 18.1 points per 100 possessions worse. Their offense stagnates late in games with a lot of “you take a turn and then it’s my turn” isolation between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder have nine losses this season, and OKC lost double-digit leads in six of those. Monday night it was a 19-point lead against New Orleans where the Pelicans — without DeMarcus Cousins — came back to win 114-107.

There’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in Oklahoma City, but Steven Adams said less of that should be at the three stars and more of it should be at him. Via Royce Young at ESPN:

“Mainly me, to be honest (should be blamed). Because the play itself you have to execute it properly and it has to be legit down to the t. I screwed up my feet on a couple of them in terms of spacing. … Everyone plays a part in the plight so you can say yeah the shot doesn’t go in which sucks. But to get them that shot I didn’t help them.”

Adams can take on a little of the blame, but this is a team thing right now — everyone has earned some blame. Billy Donovan as coach, role players like Andre Roberson or Patrick Patterson who have not lived up to expectations this season, and yes Westbrook/George/Anthony have earned some blame, too. It’s a little bit of everything.

There’s also time for the Thunder to figure it out, but they are on the clock as this is a one-year experiment in Oklahoma City (no way they pay the whopping tax coming next season to keep all three stars and Adams, no matter what ownership says publicly).

C.J. McCollum: I told Evan Fournier during altercation ‘ you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat’

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C.J. McCollum blew kisses at Evan Fournier when they got into a confrontation during the Trail Blazers’ win over the Magic last week:

But apparently the incident was even better than that!

McCollum on The Flagrant Two podcast, as transcribed by Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com:

“I just felt like he disrespected me by putting his hands on me,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I’m not trying to get any fines or anything of that nature and I told him he was sweet. He’s French, and I said that, ‘you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat.’ “

Did McCollum actually say that in the moment, or did he come up with the line after the fact? I want the former to be true, so I choose to believe it.

Report: Nuggets Paul Millsap out three months due to wrist surgery

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There were big sighs of relief in Denver when Paul Millsaps’ X-rays on his injured wrist came back negative. There were fears of a fracture suffered against the Lakers last weekend, but word from the team is it was just a sprain. He sat out the game against the Kings, but the timeline for his return was not expected to be long.

Except it has turned out to be a little more than a simple sprain. From Sham Charania of Yahoo and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Millsap — who signed a three-year, $90 million contract with Denver over the summer, after spending seven seasons with the Jazz and Hawks — is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. More importantly, he has been key to Denver’s defense going from one of the NBA’s worst to the middle of the pack this season. He’s started the season getting a handful fewer shots a game then he did in Atlanta last season, and Millsap was slightly less efficient, but like the team as a whole he seemed to be finding a groove and looked better during the recent streak when Denver won 4-of-5. He and the Nuggets were figuring out how to play together.

The Nuggets have been 4.5 points per 100 possessions better when Millsap has been on the court this season, and that will not be easy to replace.

While Kenneth Faried got the start with Millsap out last game, it was Trey Lyles who stepped up — and who Denver needs to step up with Millsap out. Others will have to step up with some defense while he is out.

LaVar Ball on Luke Walton: “They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son.”

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Luke Walton is trying to create a professional environment around his young Lakers’ core. One where they expect the players to put in extra work without being told they have to, one where the coaches guide the development, but it’s ultimately the player in charge of his own course. Basically, Walton is treating his young players like adults and is asking them to respond to it like professional adults. It’s what he’s seen Steve Kerr do in Golden State and it works. It’s how Gregg Popovich has created a dynasty in San Antonio.

LaVar Ball sees the world very differently. He’s old school, from the “do as I say” mold.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that after the Lakers’ ugly loss last Friday to the Suns, the Lakers media spoke to LaVar Ball about his son’s play and Ball took a shot at the Lakers’ coach. Here are the quotes, via Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

“They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son. I know how to coach him,” LaVar Ball said. “I tell him to go get the victory. Stop messing around.”

Does he have a problem with coach Luke Walton?

“No, I have a problem with losing,” Ball responded.

I have multiple thoughts here, which means bullet points.

• I am breaking my own rule with this post, which is “don’t cover LaVar Ball, he’s just meaningless click bait.” I debated the point, but I think there is a legitimate basketball reason to cover this post (keep reading).

• Things Luke Walton cares more about than what LaVar Ball thinks of his coaching style: How much extra guacamole costs at Chipotle; if Netflix has “Golden Girls” to stream; what shoes Lakers’ sideline reporter Mike Trudell is wearing during postgame interviews; which Van Halen album “Dance the Night Away” is on; which show won the 1974 Tony for Best Musical.

Lonzo Ball‘s struggles with his shot this season — 31.3 percent overall, and he is struggling from three and around the rim — are well documented. It’s clear he is in his own head about it at this point. What can keep him there longer is conflicting advice from his father and his coach. So far, Lonzo seems to be siding with the coaching staff, for example, he credited assistant coach Brian Shaw for telling him to rebound more aggressively, then push the ball himself. LaVar will want to take credit for that, too. Lonzo needs to listen to his coaches, take his father’s advice for what it’s worth, and find his path.

• LaVar is lucky that the level-headed, mature-for-his-age, hard-working Lonzo was his oldest son. Just from what I see on the outside, not sure either of the other two Ball children could have handled this scrutiny nearly as well.

• Luke Walton is working to create something sustainable with the Lakers, they are not going to let anything (or anyone) bump them off that path.