NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: Lakers must slow down Rondo by cutting down on mistakes

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Rajon Rondo can be something of a mystery. In game one, Rondo looked like a relative non-factor. He only grabbed six rebounds, went 6-14 from the field, and totaled a good-but-not-great eight assists. He had his moments, but for the most part it looked like the Lakers had solved the Rondo riddle.
In game two, Rondo exploded for a triple-double. He pushed the ball relentlessly, and took over the stretches of the game when Ray Allen wasn’t making everything he looked at. What did Rondo do differently in game two? Not much. Rondo’s game two was more about what the Lakers did worse than Rondo did better.
Rondo is perhaps the deadliest counter-striker in the NBA. He can hold his own playing pick-and-roll in half-court situations, and is capable of making some beautiful floaters off the dribble, but he can still be contained if teams pack the paint on him and force him to rely on his mid-range jumper. It’s in transition where Rondo becomes a force of nature. To contain Rondo, his opponents must limit the amount of transition opportunities they give to Rondo.
The most obvious way to prevent your opponent from fast-breaking is to keep your turnovers in check, and the Lakers didn’t do a great job of that in game two. After turning the ball over only 12 times in game one, the Lakers made 15 miscues in game two. However, as Yahoo!’s Kelly Dwyer noted earlier today, the Lakers’ increased turnovers weren’t really the story: the Celtics actually got one fewer point off of Laker turnovers than they did in game one.
What really allowed Rondo to get loose in game two was the amount of three-pointers the Lakers missed. The Lakers aren’t a great three-point shooting team, so they should never rely on the three-ball offensively. Against Rondo and the Celtics, settling for threes is a death sentence. 
Nobody is better at grabbing long rebounds and starting the fast break than Rajon Rondo. With his long arms, huge hands, and uncanny ability to know where a long carom his headed, Rondo is a master at grabbing rebounds that go over the heads of the big men crashing the boards. Once he gets the rebound, it’s off to the races: in a recent Ian Thomsen Sports Illustrated cover story on Rondo, the Boston point guard said that a long rebound is “like the first pass on a fast break” to him. 
In game one, the Lakers missed six three-point shots. In game two, they missed 17. Rondo only grabbed two defensive rebounds in game one. In game two, he grabbed eight. Thanks to all those long rebounds, Rondo was able to push the ball. When Rondo pushes, it opens up driving lanes for him. When Rondo pushes, it gets tougher for the Lakers to cross-match. When Rondo pushes, it opens up Ray Allen and Paul Pierce for threes trailing the break. You see where I’m going with this. 
If the Lakers want to contain Rondo in game three, they have to keep him from getting out on the fast break. The best way for them to do that is to pound the ball inside, be patient offensively, and not settle for threes. Against the Celtics, it’s not just a low-percentage shot: it’s a low-percentage shot that leads to high-percentage opportunities for the Celtics. 

Kobe Bryant went from DeMar DeRozan’s idol to his friend

Kobe Bryant, DeMar DeRozan
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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan was 16 when he was invited to Kobe Bryant‘s camp for the top 25 American high school shooting guards.

A friendship grew between the youngster who would become an All-Star for the Toronto Raptors and the player who would become the third-leading scorer in NBA history.

DeRozan talked at length Sunday night about Bryant, who announced on The Players’ Tribune that he’ll retire after the season, capping a 20-year NBA career.

“The knowledge that he tended to give me every time I got the chance to be around him, especially at a young age, carrying over to the league, it was definitely an honor,” DeRozan said after the Raptors’ 107-102 loss Sunday night to Phoenix. “I tried to listen as much as possible, soak in as much as I could all of the time. It’s crazy how much time flies.”

Bryant was DeRozan’s favorite player while growing up in Compton, Calif.

“I’ve tried to emulate and learn so much from him ever since I was a kid, watching every single game growing up in Los Angeles, having a chance to get with him and learn from him, from conversations even when I was in high school from playing against him, completing against him, being in big games with him,” said DeRozan, who scored 29 points in Sunday’s loss. “It’s definitely a sad, sad day, but he’s been in the game a long time.”

Bryant’s announcement came just before the Lakers’ game against the visiting Indiana Pacers. Fans at the game received a letter of thanks from the 37-year-old player in a black envelope embossed with gold.

Bryant has struggled mightily with injuries the past several years, and is shooting a career-worst 32 percent this season.

“It don’t matter. That man has five rings, 17 all-stars, MVP,” DeRozan said. “There’s nothing he hasn’t done. It’s just father time catching up with him, injuries catching up with him this past year. People will appreciate it when he’s away from the game.”

DeRozan has his favorite Kobe memory – Bryant scoring 81 points against Toronto in 2006. DeRozan, who would join the Raptors as a rookie three years later, said he felt as if he was playing a video game watching the high-scoring spectacle unfold on TV.

DeRozan is in his seventh season with Toronto. He can’t imagine playing 20 years.

“Especially playing at a high level, doing the things he was doing … people don’t understand how hard that is,” DeRozan said. “Even now, a lot of us find ourselves tired (on) back-to-backs. It’s tough. It’s really tough. To do it 20 years at a high level, you have to give that man every credit in the world.”

Hornets’ Al Jefferson out 2-3 weeks with strained calf

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The Hornets have been playing well of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 and outscoring opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions. They are solidly in the playoff picture out East, in the six slot right now.

This is not going to help matters.

The team announced that an MRI confirmed center Al Jefferson will be out two to three weeks with a strained left calf muscle, suffered during Charlotte’s 87-82 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Jefferson missing a few weeks due to injury at some point during the season is an annual event, like the Rose Parade or the Head of the Charles Regatta — but this year the Hornets are better prepared to deal with it. This is the deepest Charlotte team in recent memory.

Tyler Hansbrough, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky will get more run — plus Spencer Hawes may be back in the rotation — and if they can step up the Hornets will not slow down much.

This season the Hornets defense has been downright stingy when Jefferson is on the bench, giving up 94.2 points per 100 possessions (which is 10 better than when he is on the court). However, the Hornet offense and rebounding efforts are stronger when he plays.

PBT Extra: How did Thunder, Pacers move up in PBT Power Rankings?

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As they do every Monday during the season, the PBT Power Rankings came out and while the top three remained the same there were some climbers.

Specifically, the Thunder at No. 4 and the Pacers at No. 5.

Why they are there is the latest PBT Extra topic with Jenna Corrado. The simple answer is they are both excellent teams. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are all playing like Top 10 players.

PBT Podcast: We’re back talking Kobe, 76ers, Warriors, Pistons, more

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The ProBasketballTalk NBA podcast is back.

Sure we’re a month into the season, but we’re going to get this podcast rolling again and you can expect us on each Monday and Thursday, with a variety of guests talking everything around the NBA.

Today NBC’s own Dan Feldman joins Kurt Helin to talk Kobe Bryant‘s retirement announcement, and what that means both for the Lakers going forward this season and beyond, but also what that could mean for Byron Scott’s future as the Lakers’ coach.

We also delve into the “showdown” between the Lakers and Sixers on Thursday, talk about the job Brett Brown is doing there as coach (a good one), we talk some Warriors, some Draymond Green, Pistons, Spurs and Pacers to round it all out.

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.