How Rajon Rondo did his damage in game four

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Rajon Rondo had one of the best games in the playoffs in game four, destroying the Cleveland Cavaliers with his scoring, rebounding, and passing. In game three, the Cavaliers had success slowing Rondo down by packing the paint in the half-court and forcing him to stay on the perimeter. In game four, Boston was able to get out on the break much more. Rondo thrived in the full-court game, and now the Cavs are searching for a way to slow Rondo down in game five.

With that in mind, let’s look at how Rondo got his points and assists in game four. Do they need to make adjustments in the half-court game, such as switching LeBron James onto Rondo, or do they need to focus on limiting Boston’s transition opportunities? Let’s see:

Scoring:

In transition (7 seconds or less after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo makes layup six seconds after a missed three

-Rondo draws a shooting foul two seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo draws shooting foul four seconds after a three-point miss

-Rondo draws shooting foul four seconds after a Boston block

-Rondo draws shooting foul seven seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo makes layup four seconds after a Cavalier turnover

In semi-transition (8-10 seconds after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo draws shooting foul nine seconds after a Cavalier turnover

-Rondo draws shooting foul nine seconds after missed three-pointer

After dead-ball situations (Boston takes it from out of bounds):

-Rondo makes assisted 7-footer

-Rondo makes layup

-Rondo makes 19-foot jumper

-Rondo makes 17-foot jumper

-Rondo makes 16-point shot

-Rondo makes floater

Other:

-Rondo makes floater after offensive rebound

-Rondo is intentionally fouled with 17 seconds to play

Rondo only scored 12 points against the Cavaliers when the Celtics were forced to take it from out of bounds, and six of those 12 points came on jump shots. Considering he only shot 9-21 from the field, the Cavs should be willing to live with how they defended Rondo’s scoring in half-court situations — it was in the open floor where Rondo drew all those fouls and really did his damage. But what about the assists?

Assists:

Transition (7 seconds or less after a Cleveland turnover or miss):

-Rondo finds T. Allen for a dunk five seconds after a Cleveland turnover

-Rondo finds Davis for a layup seven seconds after a Cleveland turnover

Semi-Transition (8-10 seconds after a Cleveland miss or turnover):

-Rondo finds R. Allen for 8-foot shot 9 seconds after a missed three

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a three 8 seconds after a miss

-Rondo finds Davis for a layup eight seconds after a Boston block

Half-Court Situation:

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a 20-foot jumper

-Rondo finds Garnett for a make

-Rondo finds Tony Allen for layup

-Rondo finds Garnett for a jump shot at the end of the shot clock

-Rondo finds R. Allen for a jump shot

-Rondo finds T. Allen for a layup

Other:

-Rondo finds Garnett for a layup six seconds after a Cleveland make

-Rondo finds Pierce for a dunk after an offensive rebound

-Again, only 12 of the 27 points created by Rondo’s assists came in half-court situations. Rondo had an amazing game, but Cleveland can live with what he did in the half-court. In game five, limiting Rondo’s transition opportunities by turning the ball over less (17 for the Cavs in game three), giving Boston fewer chances to run off of long rebounds (17 missed threes for the Cavs), getting some offensive rebounds (the Cavs had three all game), and getting blocked less (the Cavs had eight of their shots blocked), will be just as important in stopping Rondo as anything they do when he has the ball.

Rondo is too quick, too good around the basket, too athletic, and too good of a passer to be stopped in the open court. If the Cavs want to slow him down at all, they can’t allow him to play his game.

James Harden scores 37 but Joel Embiid’s 32 leads 76ers to 121-93 rout of Rockets

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid relished the chance to face James Harden, and wasn’t going to let a little back tightness stop him.

Embiid had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past fellow MVP contender Harden and the Houston Rockets 121-93 on Monday night.

“I love playing against guys you guys say are better than me,” Embiid said.

Harden, selected Western Conference player of the week earlier in the day, finished with 37 points – giving him 20 straight games with at least 30.

Philadelphia played without four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler (sore right wrist), and Embiid more than made up for his absence.

“It was really fun for us,” Embiid said. “Don’t think it was fun for them.”

Embiid was questionable before the game with lower back soreness and coach Brett Brown hinted during pregame it might be best for the Philadelphia big man to sit this one out. Embiid clearly had other intentions.

“I want to fight with my teammates,” he said. “Whatever I have to do, I’ll do for my team.”

His 24 first-half points helped Philadelphia to a 65-50 halftime lead, and he punctuated an entertaining opening 24 minutes by pinning Harden’s layup attempt with 7.5 seconds left for a crowd-pleasing block. The duo had to be separated with 38.7 seconds left in the half, with each being issued a technical, after Harden took exception to Embiid’s foul on him.

The 76ers broke the game open in a dominant third quarter as they outscored Houston 29-13 to take a 94-63 advantage into the fourth. Ben Simmons stole Harden’s pass, made a layup and finished a three-point play after being fouled by Harden to make it 73-52. The lead kept growing, getting as large as 31.

“We were due for a game like this,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Harden had 10 points in the third but missed four of six field goal tries as the 76ers hounded him defensively with double-teams and different looks. A tired-looking Harden’s air ball with 12.3 seconds left in the third showed the effects of the Philadelphia defense – and, perhaps, Harden’s offensive workload.

With the game out of range, Harden sat in the fourth.

“This is not a great way to rest him, but we rested him today,” D’Antoni said.

 

Doc Rivers seemingly blames Steve Ballmer for Clippers losing Joe Ingles

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Entering the 2014-15 season, the Clippers had to waive someone to meet the regular-season roster maximum. Their choice came down to Joe Ingles and Jared Cunningham, neither of whom had guaranteed salaries.

L.A. kept Cunningham and waived Ingles. Cunningham never made a significant NBA impact. The Jazz claimed Ingles on waivers, and he became a quality starter in Utah.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was also team president at that time.

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News:

When asked Wednesday if he regrets that decision, Rivers answered, “all the time.”

“I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” he said. “Unfortunately I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”

Did Rivers confuse the timeline and think he was blaming Donald Sterling, the former Clippers owner who was notoriously cheap? Current owner Steve Ballmer bought the team and was announced as the owner before the start of the 2014-15 season, when Ingles was signed for camp and released. Ballmer has talked big about spending, and is Rivers’ boss right now. It’d be strange for Rivers to criticize Ballmer like this, but I also can’t figure out whom else he’d be referring to besides the owner. As team president, Rivers had no other oversight within basketball operations.

Maybe Rivers wanted to keep both Ingles and Cunningham and waive someone with a guaranteed salary – likely Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ekpe Udoh or Glen Davis. But, in hindsight, the obviously right call would have been waiving whichever of those players was necessary to keep Ingles.

The frequent criticism of the Clippers about Ingles is somewhat unfair. They brought Ingles to training camp when other teams didn’t. The only reason they were positioned to waive him is because they were ahead of the curve on him.

But they also had the unique opportunity to evaluate him up close and still decided he wasn’t worth a roster spot.

How did that decision get made? Rivers passing the buck only adds confusion. It seemed as if it were his decision.

Luka Doncic becomes second NBA teenager to record triple-double, Bucks rout Mavs anyway

Associated Press
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Is Luka Doncic an All-Star?

He’s not a starter (in my vote, anyway) but in what is an exhibition designed to give the fans what they want, why not have Doncic in the game? He is what the fans want. I’m not convinced he’ll make the cut — at least in the ridiculously deep West, in the East he probably would — but it’s a legitimate conversation. The kid can flat-out ball.

Case in point, he dropped a triple-double on the Bucks on MLK Day, becoming only the second teenager to record an NBA triple-double. (The other was Markelle Fultz, who was 10-days younger when he got his, also against Milwaukee.) Doncic finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Doncic’s play was not enough to keep the Bucks from racking up their fifth straight win, and doing it pretty easily (although Dallas made an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to make it a little interesting). Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe had 21 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks (that was Lopez’s first double-double with the Bucks).

Reports: Houston trades Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, who will waive him

Associated Press
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Carmelo Anthony‘s sabbatical is over. Sort of.

Anthony, who has been on the Houston roster but not with the team after that experiment crashed and burned 10 games into the season, will be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story (and other reports have since confirmed it). However, he’s not going to be putting on a Bulls’ jersey.

He may not be waived until after the Feb. 7 deadline, in case the Bulls find a way to use his salary in a one-for-one trade (his salary cannot be combined with others in a deal because he was just traded). If/when he is waived, at that point there will be more roster shuffling around the league and a landing spot for ‘Melo may open up.

Houston’s trade is much like the trade from Oklahoma City to Atlanta last summer that moved Anthony off the Thunder roster. The Hawks waived him and Anthony signed with the Rockets. For the Rockets, this is about saving money.

The Bulls also make a little under a million in this deal. If another team signs Anthony, it would be a benefit for the Hawks.

It’s unclear where Anthony’s ultimate landing spot will be, although his agent has said there are options.

After his struggles in Houston — where the future Hall of Famer thought he deserved more than a bench role due to his stature, even though because of his declining offensive skills and defense that’s all he warranted — it’s hard to imagine another contender or even playoff team picking him up. Maybe a franchise going all in on the Zion Williamson chase but wants a bump at the gate from the name recognition Anthony brings him in? Although for teams trying to develop young talent why take the ball out of those young guys’ hands to let Anthony jack up contested twos? Most likely it will be a team battling injuries and looking for help.

In 10 games for the Rockets this season coming off the bench, Anthony averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, shot just 40.5 percent overall and 32.8 percent from three. The Rockets’ defense was 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony sat.