Today Paul Flannery of SB Nation wrote about 10 different things he took notes on from yesterday’s game against the Clippers. There were plenty of things to note, especially after the news broke that the Clippers were interested in Kevin Garnett.
There was one thing that stuck out to me like a sore thumb, though. Well, two really. There was Doc Rivers’ quote about how the Celtics blew their 19 point lead. He talked about how their offense has changed since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. Here’s the quote.
We stopped playing. You could see it in the third quarter. It’s back-to-back games, and I told our guys that. I hate as a coach when you’re telling them that and they’re agreeing with you after the game, and we still did it. That’s back-to-back games where we were playing really good basketball. We were pressuring, we were getting up the floor, we were playing in space, our offense was early clock — and we get into the third quarter in the middle of it and all of a sudden they’re scoring in five seconds, we’re walking the ball off the floor. And I’m trying to tell them, ‘That’s not who we are. We can’t be that anymore.’ We just can’t. We can’t play that way.
That’s a pretty interesting quote there. In talking about how they blew the lead Doc revealed exactly how much the Celtics have changed their gameplan. He confirmed what waas already suspected. The Celtics have gone from being a team that goes from the first option if its not perfect and waits patiently for the second or third option. The late clock possession is now a thing of the past for them.
There’s a lot more movement with the ball and the C’s are taking the first look that they get. They manifest these looks from ball movement and spacing and making sure that they get back on defense. The offense is no longer a set one. Now, its rather free flowing and it focuses on defense and transition.
I wouldn’t say that the Celtics are better without Rondo. In fact, I don’t think that anyone would say that. I’d venture to say that the Celtics offense is better without Rondo because the players have to make up for the absence of Rondo. They’re creating in different ways as opposed to letting Rondo do everything for them. And that brings us into the next interesting quote that I found in Flannery’s piece. It came from Courtney Lee. Take a look.
“We’re not better without Rondo,” Courtney Lee suggested. “We’re better because we’re playing for Rondo.”
That’s exactly what was suspected before. Everyone is pitching in because of the absence of Rondo. It’s now just a matter of sustainablity–not being better without Rondo.
What we should question here is why Doc Rivers hadn’t gone to this offense before Rondo went down. This style perfectly accomodates the needs of Rondo. He’s dangerous with shooters trailing behind him in transition and can find anyone at the rim. His pinpoint passing is something that a lot of teams don’t have when they’re running the floor. It hides his inability to hit three point jump shots and gets him a path to the rim as well.
Hopefully, when Rondo returns next season Doc will go back to the system that worked for him. He needs to. Surrounding Rondo with shooters and letting him drive the ball into the paint is what needed to be done in the first place. Sure, when the game slows down you’ll know how to run things. But pick and pop jump shots aren’t what wins in this league. You’ve got to focus on drawing fouls, shooting threes, and getting lay ups. You do that by having a big that dives to the rim, getting into the paint and kicking the ball out, and swinging it against the defenses rotations.