Atlanta Hawks: Reining in Rondo
BOSTON–Rajon Rondo had a triple-double in Game 3 but his 0.57 points per possession were worst on the team, according to Synergy Sports Technology. So Jeff Teague isn’t wrong when he says of Rondo: “He’s going to penetrate. He’s a good player. Some plays you have to live with. Just like guys on our team are going to make plays and they have to live with it. There’s a reason he’s one of the best point guards in the league.”
Here’s a closer look at Rondo’s plays in Game 3. Per my Synergy review, a chart of the 32 possessions Rondo used (FGA, FTA and turnovers, not including his two FTA when he was intentionally fouled in the final moments):
- Rondo got to the basket when Kirk Hinrich helped on Paul Pierce, who was two steps ahead of Joe coming off a screen. But Rondo missed after Hinrich recovered and challenged his shot.
- Rondo faked using a screen to his left, prompting Hinrich to step under it. Rondo stepped back to his right to shoot but missed as Hinrich managed to challenge.
- Rondo posted up Hinrich but lost the ball when Hinrich reached around and poked it away.
- Rondo collected the loose ball after Hinrich nearly stole it, then was fouled by Collins on a layup attempt. Rondo made both free throws.
- Rondo sailed a pass over Greg Stiemsma’s head.
- Rondo tried to blow past Hinrich in transition but Hinrich anticipated it and forced a Rondo miss (it looked as though Hinrich actually may have gotten a piece of the ball but no block was credited).
- Rondo went around a Kevin Garnett screen as Hinrich stumbled while going under it, but Hinrich recovered and stripped Rondo of the ball as he started his move to the basket.
- Rondo made a bad bounce pass to Ray Allen and then charged into Ivan Johnson after collecting Allen’s wild pass to save the ball from going out of bounds.
- Rondo scored a layup off a screen when Teague went way under a Garnett screen and then hesitated to get back over it as Garnett rolled to the basket with Jason Collins.
- Rondo rubbed Hinrich off a Garnett screen but missed a corner 3-point attempt as Hinrich recovered to challenge.
- Rondo missed an open 20-footer as Hinrich went under Garnett’s screen and was late to challenge. (Dominique Wilkins on the call: “You’ll give him that shot all night.”)
- Rondo missed an open 18-footer on what appeared to be a broken play from the Celtics: both Pierce and Garnett were trying to set a pick. Hinrich went under them both and conceded the shot.
- Rondo tried to get to the basket past Hinrich on the secondary break but Hinrich swiped at the ball a Rondo went up to force the miss.
- Rondo isolated Jannero Pargo and overpowered him for a layp.
- Rondo got past Pargo in transition but missed a rushed jumper as the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
- Rondo got careless with the ball while holding it out with one hand to survey the court and Pargo poked it away for a steal.
- Rondo scored on a layup after Pargo got taken out by a Garnett screen and Dampier failed to show at all.
- Rondo scored on the break after Pierce poked the ball away from Tracy McGrady (Teague did well to chase down Rondo and challenge but Rondo scored on a nifty reverse layup).
- Rondo scored a layup off the pick-and-roll layup after Teague prematurely jumped under Garnett’s screen (though it did appear Garnett hooked Teague to prevent him from recovering).
- Rondo missed a 20-footer after Teague went under Garnett’s screen but was able to challenge because of his quickness and leaping ability.
- Rondo’s layup attempt after an offensive rebound was blocked by Joe.
- Rondo missed a runner over Collins on the scrambled possession that followed Joe’s blocked shot.
- Rondo missed an iso layup when Teague recovered from a trailing position and used his leaping ability to challenge.
- Rondo scored a layup after rubbing Teague off a Garnett screen (Teague recovered from the screen but then Rondo reversed course, snaked to the basket and scored on a nifty scoop shot.)
- Rondo posted up Teague and dropped in a hook shot over him.
- Rondo missed a layup in transition after he stole Collins’ pass (it appeared Rondo simply lost his footing when planting).
- Rondo missed an isolation jumper late in shot clock against tight defense by Teague, who wouldn’t allow Garnett space to set a screen.
- Rondo, isolated against Teague, used a fake to get free for a layup–he missed when Collins challenged, but that left Garnett to dunk the rebound and essentially finish off the Hawks.
And here’s a chart of the three Rondo assists that were the direct result of his penetration:
- Hinrich helped on Pierce coming off a screen, Rondo cut to the basket and then fed Bass for a dunk when Marvin Williams helped.
- Rondo got by Pargo on a superb spin move and then hit Pierce in the corner for a 3 when McGrady came off Pierce to help.
- Rondo thwarted a trap attempt by Teague and Dampier and got to the basket with both defenders trailing. Garnett popped out for a long 2.
- Hinrich should guard Rondo whenever possible, especially when this can be done without Teague having to check Allen.
- Pargo should not guard Rondo whenever possible.
- The player guarding Rondo should generally go under screens while being careful not to get tangled up with Garnett, who is a master at getting away with moving screens and hooks.
- Josh Smith by far is the best screen-roll defensive partner for whichever teammate is guarding Rondo. He makes going under screens more feasible because he can help and get back to Garnett. If Josh plays, perhaps he should guard KG down the stretch.
Teague didn’t necessarily agree with No. 3.
“It’s difficult to guard someone that’s that fast and you have to go under screens so deep,” Teague said. “He’s been going against that kind of defense his whole life. I’m pretty sure he’s perfected people guarding him that way. When you’ve got guys like ‘KG’ who can pick-and-pop and Brandon Bass who can make shots, it’s pretty tough.”
Teague obviously is quick enough to stay in front of Rondo and athletic enough to recover and challenge Rondo’s shot after he dives under screens. But in Game 3 he wasn’t always aggressive in doing either.
“He’s played very well,” Drew said of Teague. “Offensively when he’s attacking obviously we are a different ballclub. I just need him to pick up his defense much more. He’s defending a guy who is one of the better point guards in this league in Rondo. It’s just a matter of stepping up to the challenge. He’s not going to shut him down but he’s got to make things more difficult for him.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat