We're all about Voting Rondo around here… and this is the stretch where he's going to have to earn it. Starting with last night's game, he's facing some tough tests at point.
Let's start with last night, where Chris Paul got the better of the matchup. Paul had 20 points and 14 assists… but some of those numbers were inflated by an early lack of defense by the guys on the post for the C's. I don't want to discredit Paul's game last night… but I can remember offhand about 4 or 5 instances of a guy getting lost for an easy dunk. CP3 only shot 5-16 from the field… and half his points came from the line. But the hallmark of a good player is still finding a way to be effective on an off night.
Offensively, Rondo was no better, and the Celtics did a ton of their 3rd quarter damage with Eddie House on the floor. Paul was off, and Rondo can take some credit for that… but he can also shoulder some blame for not turning an "off" night into a bad night for CP3. A couple of early fouls didn't help. I don't want to over-simplify things… but early foul trouble when you're trying to check a guy like Paul will go a long way towards taking away your aggressiveness. If Rondo could have avoided one of those first-quarter fouls, he might have had a better game… at least on defense.
It gets no easier for Rajon on Monday when Deron Williams and the Jazz come to town. Williams is a tough cover for anyone, and he had success against Rondo last year. He's coming off 3 straight double-doubles of 15-and-15, 12-11 and 14-11 Thursday against Portland. Since returning from his injury, he's had THREE 15 assist games, a 13 assist night, and those two 11 dime nights. However, he's been shooting terribly this year (38%) and it gets worse on the road (32.7%). Rondo's success against him will hinge on his teammates. If Perk and KG let Rondo down by helping too much and losing their guys, we'll see more easy dunks by the Jazz. Rondo has to dare Williams to shoot (just like teams dare Rondo to shoot) and not gamble too much on defense. If he gambles and goes for that wrap-around steal… Williams will torch him and someone will be doing chin-ups on the rim.
After Utah, it's our buddy Mike Bibby, Chicago phenom Derrick Rose, Chris Duhon (who playing well, averaging about 15 and 10 in December) and Andre Miller on Rondo's plate. It's going to be a tough stretch for Rondo who will have some high-profile opportunities to convince All Star voters to check his name on the ballot. He didn't win many votes last night, but he can redeem himself with a good game Monday… and a good stretch after that.
Then we cap that stretch off with the Christmas day game against the Lakers… where Rondo and the C's can make their biggest statement yet. A great game there could cement his All Star status.