Rajon Rondo is playing so well — assisting on half of his team’s baskets when he is on the floor, pitching in 10.8 points per game, playing great defense — that his name is mentioned in early MVP talks.
It’s far too premature to talk about that, but Rondo has been amazing at adapting to the “lay off him and dare him to shoot” defense that the Lakers used in the finals. This season Rondo has used that space to see the floor better, attack and make passes. He has turned that space given him against teams.
But in a fantastic post at the amazing NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti notes that Dallas may have put together the blueprint to stopping him. (Really, you need to read this blog every day, some of the smartest breakdowns on the Web). Rondo had 15 assists and 11 points, but Boston struggled on offense, with a just 95.6 points per 100 possessions pace.
Dallas sagged off him, but that was just half the game — they also chased shooters hard around picks and on cuts. Rondo has used the space given him to see the floor better and pick teams apart, like a quarterback with time in the pocket, but Dallas blanketed his receivers.
They also kept Rondo from penetrating into the lane.
The Mavericks really made an effort to keep Rondo out of the lane in the half court, and they were very effective in doing so. Rondo’s two makes at the rim came in transition, and in addition to his 4 shots at the rim, Rondo took 11 shots from elsewhere on the court (including 6 attempts from 16-23 feet).
They did that by switching screens, by having a team effort focused on him. They did give up Rondo a pass back — if he got in deep they let him pass back out to the elbow area and rotated, but they didn’t let him just have the layup. Let him pass the ball farther away from the basket.
It should be noted that the very deep and athletic Mavericks have the personnel to do this, where very few other teams do. But you may see variations of this strategy on Rondo going forward.