Most of the talk surrounding the finish of Sunday’s wild Cavaliers-Celtics tilt has been about LeBron James horrible, horrible, terrible decision to pull up for a three on a fast-break with four seconds remaining in the game and the Cavaliers trailing by two. (To be clear: that was a horrible decision.)
However, as bad as LeBron’s decision to pull up from three was instead of try to tie the game or even get an and-1 by going to the basket, the Cavaliers may still have been able to tie the game if it weren’t for Rajon Rondo. When explaining why he pulled up for that shot, one of the arguments LeBron made is that Antawn Jamison had good rebounding position if he missed. Looking at the video (2:18 mark to see the play in question), you can see that LeBron was correct. Jamison is well ahead of the pack when LeBron is rising to shoot, and appears to have the inside track on a potential rebound. When LeBron’s three misses, Jamison is in position to grab the short rebound and J.J. Hickson is in position to grab the long one.
Unfortunately for both of them, Rajon Rondo ran back down the floor, went up for the rebound, and was able to get in there and keep Jamison from getting a handle on the ball, giving possession and the game to the Celtics. Rondo is one of the best rebounding guards in the league. On Sunday, his rebounding acumen and hustle allowed the Celtics to hang onto a win against their conference rival.
One last thing: I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to steer the discussion away from how bad that three-point attempt by LeBron was. LeBron is one of the most unstoppable players ever in transition. The Celtics looked gassed and had coughed up a 22-point lead already. LeBron is a 33.5% three-point shooter on the year, was 0-7 from beyond the arc at that point, and was off-balance and going full speed. There was not a good chance he was going to make that shot. If there are multiple options available, and the one chosen has a very low probability of working, it’s probably best to make a different decision. All I’m saying is that Rondo’s heads-up play to ensure the win for Boston deserves a bit of attention as well.