There once was a time when every game was in his complete control. Not anymore, not against the Lakers. Not so far, at least.
I’m not going to talk about statistics once while talking about Rajon Rondo’s impact on the NBA Finals. His impact was never about statistics, not even when he dropped that outrageous 29-18-13 against Lebron. Rondo’s a pure point guard, see. His impact is in finding open teammates, controlling the tempo and disrupting the other team’s flow. Even when he has huge statistical outbursts, it’s always the amount of control he exhibits in those games that’s most impressive. As I once wrote, when Rondo’s on his game the ball is like a yo-yo in his oversized mitts, the game a yo-yo at his fingertips. He pushes the pace when the Celtics have numbers, slows it when they don’t and plays the part of puppeteer, with the other nine players on the court nothing but pawns at his mercy.
And then the Lakers series came. Suddenly, Rondo isn’t always in control. Suddenly, the game controls him some of the time. Suddenly, he no longer looks like a threat to steal Chris Paul’s throne (or Deron Williams’ throne, whatever have you).
Last night, Rondo was as bad as he’s been since the playoffs started. He just didn’t look comfortable out there, ya know? He missed a dunk, went softly to the rim on his layups, and didn’t attack the paint and find open teammates. Part of it is that the Celtics didn’t get a lot of stops, I know. The C’s couldn’t get out in transition. Part of it, too, is that the Lakers’ defense was spectacular. I understand. But Rondo’s still got to attack, he’s still got to exhibit some sort of control over the game.
If I could tell Rondo one piece of advice for Game 7, it’d be very simple: “Attack.” Attack in transition, attack in the half court, attack when Kobe Bryant lays 10 feet off him — attack, attack, attack. No need to settle for jumpers. Get into the lane, cause havoc. Go up strong and dunk on someone. Get to the line. Keep getting to the line, even if the free throws are missing. If Rondo is a threat going to the basket, help will come. Once help comes, other players will be open. It’s easy, really, even if it’s against the Lakers’ obscene length. Easy to say, at least. I understand it’s far more difficult to execute.
But that’s what the Celtics need out of Rondo. If there’s nothing else he’s shown over the past couple months, it’s that this team is his. Paul Pierce may hit the biggest shots down the stretch, Ray Allen may be the greatest shooter in the NBA and Kevin Garnett may be the best help defender in the world, but the Celtics are Rajon Rondo’s team.
At least, they’d better be in Game 7.