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.

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

Associated Press
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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.

PBT Podcast: What went wrong and what’s next for Trail Blazers?

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It was embarrassing, and left both fans and players of the Trail Blazers angry and frustrated — Portland was unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now what happens in Portland? Is Terry Stotts in danger as the coach? What about GM Neil Olshey? Would they consider trading C.J. McCollum? Is there any way to offload the contract of Evan Turner?

Kurt Helin and the Northeast’s own Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast, and Blazers fans may not like the answers. The pair also touch on other series around the league, like do the Pelicans have a shot against the Warriors? And, as required by NBA law, they touch on the Sixers run.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

Associated Press
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Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.