Posted by Sekou Smith
SALT LAKE CITY – Just because we packed up all our goods from the hideout and headed to see the Western Conference semifinals doesn’t mean we’re ignoring what’s going on in the East.
And how could anyone miss what Rajon Rondo did to the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon in Boston?
Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was a singularly amazing performance in itself (in case you haven’t heard, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only other players that have put up numbers like that in a playoff game), but it brought up and interesting topic for a small group of us that huddled up for a later dinner after the game.
And no, we didn’t dive back into the who’s-the-best-point-guard-in-the-league discussion, because we could pick a different one for each round of these playoffs and still be right.
Instead, we were trying to come up with a logical explanation for 20 teams passing on him in the 2006 draft. Of course, we could not come up with anything.
I remember watching Rondo go through a workout in Atlanta and everyone raving about his athleticism, defensive skills and just about everything about him, save for the often-used and totally ridiculous claim that “well, he can’t make a shot.”
Rondo still isn’t a great shooter and perhaps he never will be, but he does everything else well on both ends of the floor.
He’s easily the best defensive point guard in the league. And on a team that feeds off of its prowess and effort on the defensive end, Rondo’s contributions are crucial, as my main man and NBA.com colleague John Schuhmann pointed out:
For the most part, the Celtics’ break was fueled by their defense. Their intensity on that end returned after a one-game hiatus, again keeping James out of the paint. And with the game on the line early in the fourth quarter, that vaunted Celtics defense was the deciding factor.
They held the Cavs scoreless on the first nine possessions of the fourth, turning a two-point lead into a 12-point cushion. They forced four Cleveland turnovers in that stretch, three long jumpers, and a pair of rushed drives.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Rondo extra credit for keeping the Cavs uncomfortable offensively.
“The stat that doesn’t show … was his ball pressure,” Rivers said. “I thought that was the biggest difference, because they didn’t get into their stuff as quickly as they did in Game 3.
“To me, that might have been the hardest thing he had to do tonight. And we were concerned about that robbing him of his energy. And then to go out and do the rebounding and the passing and the scoring, it was just an amazing effort.”
I just wonder if anyone will ever say similar things about Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Cedric Simmons, Shawne Williams, Oleksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby or Renaldo Balkman — who were all drafted ahead of Rondo?
I’m going to take a stab here and guess no.
And I guarantee you LeBron James won’t be concerned with trying to guard any of those guys anytime soon.