Doc Rivers said a lot of things today in his latest interview with WEEI.
“I think we have a chance to be really special…”
“… but we’re not there yet and we have work to do.”
“We’ve got to get more out of [Jermaine O'Neal].”
Yes. Please. I’m begging now.
“That has to be one of the longest seconds that I’ve ever experienced.”
Ian Rider’s just surprised the Celtics weren’t called for defensive three seconds before Anthony Parker shot his jumper.
But I wasn’t so concerned with any of that stuff. I knew all of that. One quote Doc said, though, took me by surprise.
Rivers also didn’t feel like Wednesday night was one of Rajon Rondo’s better performances, despite scoring 18 points and having nine assists. “His numbers were great but it wasn’t his best game,” Rivers said. “It was one of those games where the ball was in his hands too much. We played the Cleveland game like we played the second half of the Miami game. Last night was an execution night. Rondo’s offense will come from transition, pushing the ball up the floor, attacking the paint.”
Rivers wasn’t thrilled with the amount Rondo held the ball, but I’m not sure how differently Rondo played last night from the Miami game. Sure, his assist numbers went down while his scoring numbers increased, but that was mostly due to necessity. Rondo was having an easy time scoring and none of his other teammates were lighting it up.
The box scores at Basketball Reference say Rondo’s usage rate increased from 14.2% in the Heat game to 21.0% last night. But that discrepancy doesn’t necessarily mean Rondo held the ball any longer. It simply means more possessions ended in a Rondo shot or turnover, which we already knew. He was more aggressive looking for his own shot against Cleveland. Anybody could see that. But did he hold the ball too long?
I didn’t think so. I wished Rondo had been more aggressive. I wished he’d taken more shots, driven to the hoop more often, taken advantage of his matchup with Ramon Sessions and Cleveland’s lack of a premier shot blocker. In the fourth quarter, especially, Rondo disappeared. As he normally does when a game gets close, Rondo deferred to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Rather than continuing his aggression, Rondo played the final 10:29 without taking a single shot. He was fouled on one drive with 21 seconds remaining, but with the Celtics down five points and that little time remaining, he had been forced to make a play.
The offense went stagnant, scoring only one field goal over the game’s final 4:30, and Rondo was nowhere to be found. If I had to point out one flaw in Rondo’s game, it would be that he allows himself to be the C’s third or fourth option during most fourth quarters. Rondo has become the Celtics’ best player, and their most consistent producer. But when the game is on the line, he almost always defers.
Is that because he doesn’t trust his shooting? Because he wants to please the Celtics’ more experienced players? Because Doc Rivers calls fourth-quarter plays designed to free up the Big Three? I’m not sure. But the Celtics are a better team when Rondo is aggressive. One of their biggest problems last year was fourth-quarter execution, and a big part of the reason for that is a tendency to go away from Rondo. He’s the Celtics’ biggest threat, and when fourth quarters go by without Rondo touching the ball, the Celtics suffer.
So did Rondo pound the ball into the floor a little too much last night? Maybe. But when games are in the balance, the Celtics need number nine to be more aggressive.