Rajon Rondo has arguably been the MVP of the playoffs up until the Finals. He has been brilliant, dominant at both ends of the floor. He’s been so good that smart, reasonable people, like myself, lost their minds and actually started wondering if Rondo was the best point guard in the league.
And he’s been severely limited by such a simple element of basketball. Free throws.
ESPN’s Chris Forsberg reports in the Daily Dime that Doc Rivers has started wondering if Rondo’s lack of aggressiveness in going to the rim against Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum is due to his 26.7% free throw shooting in the Finals. Worse than 30% for a point guard. Yeesh. From Doc’s mouth to your eyes:
“Just in Game 3, I thought was the only game,” said Rivers. “I thought
he just tended not to drive more. But I thought he went right back to
it. So that’s how much he’s grown. A year ago or two years ago, that may
have been the last layup of the series and [Thursday] night in the
third quarter he came out, he was aggressive, he was attacking, and
that’s who he has to be.”
Rivers says he responded in Game 4 and that he expects Rondo to go back to his dominant ways for the rest of the series. But with that in mind, the Lakers have done a good job of distributing fouls, and with this in mind, they’re likely to lower the boom on Rondo if he enters the paint.
On the flip side, if Rondo starts knocking them down, it’s only going to fuel his efforts. Once Rondo slices and dices the Lakers a few times by getting and-ones or converting both free throws, it’s going to force them to adjust to him. And that’s where the Celtics will get what they’ve been looking for, open looks for the Big 3. That’s the best model for them to win this series. Force the Lakers to adapt to their offense and then torch them with their advanced weaponry. Heart and perseverance will take you a long way but not to the title.
Rondo can be the deciding factor in this series for the Celtics. But he’s got to knock them down at the stripe.
Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.
He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.
The San Antonio coach has seen everything.
Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.
Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”
“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”
The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.
Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.
The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.
They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!
Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.
He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.
That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.
In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.
Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.
Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:
Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.
That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.
But he still chases them.
Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.
Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.
Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.
It could be both!
Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.