Doc Rivers made the claim yesterday after practice that Rajon Rondo will be the Celtics’ key in round two. (ESPNBoston)
“I think Rondo is the key to the series,” said Rivers, who, over the past two days, has also pointed to rebounding, defending the 3-point shot, limiting the Cavaliers’ bench, and keeping James in check as other ‘key’ factors.
“His speed has to be a factor. He has to be disruptive defensively with his speed and ball pressure. They are going to help off him and he’s got to handle that well. Really how well he handles them dropping off him and not guarding him will be the key to us winning. When he’s effective, our whole team is effective.”
But is Rondo really the Celtics’ key?
To me, it depends on how you look at “key”. If you look at it as the best player, then yes. Matched up against Mo Williams (and, apparently, Doc Rivers expects Lebron James to spend a lot of time defending Rondo too), Rondo should have his way. He has developed into Boston’s most consistent threat and the one player the C’s can rely on to have big games night in and night out.
But, in that same manner, is Lebron James the key for Cleveland? Absolutely not. The Cavs know what they’re going to get from him. He’s their best player, by far, but he’s not the key to beating Boston. It’s the supporting cast coming through that’s the key. Lebron is going to get his 30, 8 and 8 (or maybe more), but the supporting cast remains the wild card and thus the key.
I’m not comparing Rondo to Lebron, they aren’t even in the same stratosphere, but the Celtics know what they’re going to get from Rondo. To me, the other guys are the key. Can Kevin Garnett expose Antawn Jamison’s lack of length in the post? Can Paul Pierce limit Lebron and score on him too? Can Ray Allen avoid a slump he had last time the two teams met in the playoffs? Can Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace meet Anderson Varejao’s energy?
Those are the keys, not Rondo. The Celtics know what they’re going to get from him, every night. It’s up to everyone else to hold up their end of the bargain.