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. 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.

Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”

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The Spurs completed an amazing comeback win against the Thunder Friday night, coming from 23 down to knock off the Thunder when Carmelo Anthony‘s game-tying three was just a two because his toe was on the line.

Gregg Popovich was into this one.

So much so that when he didn’t like an out-of-bounds call he made sure all three officials knew exactly how blind he thought they were.

The best part of this is Popovich covering his eyes, just to really emphasize his point.

We’re really going to miss Pop when he steps away to live at a winery full time.