Why go away from Rondo in crunch time? | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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Why go away from Rondo in crunch time?

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Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Rajon Rondo is stepping into his own as an NBA point guard.  He's easily the fastest guy on the team… the best passer on the team… and the best ball handler on the team.

So why, in crunch time, do the Celtics insist on going away from running the offense that works to go to a Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett pick and roll at the top of the key?  Why… when the Celtics offense is clearly at its best when Rajon Rondo penetrates and finds guys when the defense collapses… do you eliminate Rondo from the play entirely?

Is it because he "can't shoot"?  There are two things wrong with that.  1:  He's actually shooting pretty well 10-15 feet from the basket.  2:  If you put him on the wing while Pierce and KG play a 2 man game up top, Rondo's guy will just slide off and sort of play free safety… clogging the lane Pierce so desperately wants to find.

Let Rondo's guy back off him at the top of the key.  Let Rondo take a couple of jumpers around the free throw line.  he's making those shots.  Or let Rondo… the fastest guy on the court by a wide margin… penetrate and find someone. 

And if, after 12-14 seconds nothing develops… THEN you let Pierce and KG run the pick and roll.  That's plenty of time for them to work something out.  But this 4th quarter walking the ball up the floor with Paul Pierce until KG decides to come up and set the pick is killing the C's offensive flow.  It's no wonder the guys suddenly aren't scoring in the 4th.  They're suddenly a different team when Pierce plays point-forward and the Celtics seem content to go 2-on-5.  Ray has no reason to run off any picks to get open… Perk and Rondo just stand there… and the team pretty much just settles for one shot and that's it. 

What I don't know here is whether Pierce is doing this because he feels like "I'm the captain, I'm the scorer, this is my time to take over"… OR… if this is a case of "I'm tired, I can't run through the offense to get the ball and still make a move, so I'm going to take 10 seconds to gather my energy for one big burst to the basket because that's all I got right now."

I'm hoping its not the latter.  If it is, then Doc needs to not play him 40 minutes (Doc gets a pass on last night, with Tony Allen injured and no Nate Robinson/Eddie House).  If it's the former, then Pierce has to recognize that he can still be the man who takes over while still running the offense.

Whatever the reason, you have to do what you always do to succeed.  You can't suddenly turn into something else because the ripple effect is bad.  I love Pierce and I think he'll still hit the clutch shots for you… but we can't sacrifice 3 other guys in the offense to guarantee that he'll be taking that shot.  It's too disruptive and it does more harm than good.

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  • PutDJintheHall

    I had been thinking the same thing.
    It don’t make no sense. Peirce doesn’t have to be the go to guy. I hate the clear out from the top of the key. In Pauls prime, Great option a year or two removed from his prime. Not so much. Just feels like he trying to prove it to us.
    let Rondo create, ill take that 8 days a week and twice on Sundays

  • nick

    I’m not hating on Marquis Daniels, I thought he would help us big time, but enough is enough..To play a putrid game like that against L.A when we needed him just sucks. I mean I talked all offseason about wanting Matt Barnes and both guys have their strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve never seen Matt Barnes just look afraid and play like a pussy against an arch-rival. I’ve seen Barnes play all out and start fist-fights and knock down 3’s and guard the other team’s best player. What exactly is Marquis doing this season? I’m still giving him a chance because the injury he had but c’mon dude its time to step it up. Also..we have 2 open roster spots now and I’m curious to see who and if we’re gona bring in a semi impact player. U can never be too deep when ur battling L..A and Orlando and Atlanta. Time for Ainge to earn his check after the great move he made yesterday its time for 1 or 2 more of them.

  • Lakerhater (FD)

    Why go away from Rondo? Cause Doc’s a schmuck thats why.

  • idaho.jim

    I’d love to see them run their primary Offense w/ rondo for 2-3 screeens for ray and pierce, then go Pick/Roll w/ 10 secs left not 18.
    Plus that was an obvious shooting foul at the rim lst night. Should been at the charity stripe w/ 2.2 left

  • Wiggs Dannyboy

    Me, at the onset of the Celts final possession last night…”Oh no…Pierce you aren’t going to do this again are ya?…please no, no, no…what the hell are ya doin…PASS THE FUCKIN BALL DAMNIT! Shit, you’re going to turn it over, shit shit shit…WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!”
    Pierce LOOKED like he was on the verge of loosing control of the ball for a good chunk of that last possession. I’m glad you noted that in your piece, and for god’s sake, WHY ISN’T RONDO HANDLING THE BALL AND BRINGING IT UPCOURT??????
    This has to fall on Doc’s back, in my opinion.
    On a positive note…Ray can still bring it…KG looked like he had some HOP in his legs a few times, I think he will show progress and get much better as the weeks go by…Rondo can/will mess teams up…the old Perk showed himself.
    For balance…Sheed sucks the big elephant shlong. Dude can’t stop himself from launching bombs, and too many times he really seems like he is sleepwalking out there, as evidenced by his body language when he all-of-a-sudden wakes up out of his on-court daydreaming. You know that look…just kinda standing there, then, SNAP..a quick body twitch when consciousness returns.

  • JD

    Amen, I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while now as well. The offense looks slow, less efficient, and lets be honest, Paul is not the same player he was two years ago, he looks much worse with the ball in his hands. Give the ball to Rondo, let him succeed or fail, I trust him either way at this point.

  • JD

    Furthermore, that 1-3 pick and roll they run is very effective as well, because it either leaves Rondo a wide open lane or Paul a mismatch. If Paul wants to be so involved in the offense late in games, the C’s should run that more than anything.

  • Its beeen bothering me intensely and its one of the biggest problems this year in my opinion…not only at the end of games, but throughout games…I’ve been a doc supportter and a supporter of doing that in the last 2 seasons..but this is rondos team now, and it continues to boggle my mind to watch him dominate a game and then watch pierce do the crunch time ball handling and dribble the ball off his foot, while playing rondo to his weakness, spotting up

  • Adam Goodman

    Don’t forget about when Rondo decided the ball wasn’t going to leave his hands for two possessions straight… One that ended with a quick 17-footer that wasn’t even close, and the second which ended with a forced air balled lay up. He looked like he wanted to be the hero for a few possessions and Paul looked like he wanted to be the hero even more.

  • Now is the time to start developing end-of-game rondo, and even if he loses some games or misses some shots or fts, who the hell doesnt? having Pierce play hero is just annoying now. and rondo needs to grow into that role, and it should start now

  • Venus

    Uh Doc if you’re reading this can you give us the answer? Why talk about unselfish Celtics basketball all game then go to the 1 on 5 offense late in the game.
    There’s no way to justify letting Paul run the offense in the 2nd half like they’ve been doing judging by the number of times the iso and dribble into traffic move has failed us lately.
    Even if Paul wants to be the man it is Doc’s job as the coach to rein him. As long as Doc’s vets can do no long philosophy exists no one is going to put a stop to it.

  • Lakerfan

    Really good game. Love defensive battles and the celts played a good game.


    I totally agree with giving Rondo the ball. Here’s a couple of reasons why i think they don’t…
    A) – he can’t shoot free throws – so if he gets the ball in certain situations Doc thinks he’ll just get fouled and we’ll get 1 or no points from it.
    B) Doc thinks they’ll just play of Rondo’s jumpshot and clog the lane anyway.
    Do I agree with it – no but that’s why i think they don’t do it.
    There are just so many creative options if it’s in his hands so I really hope they give him a crack…

  • Danno

    90% of the time Rondo handle’s the ball, he drives baseline and kicks to a jump shooter.
    That’s not how you win close games in the last 2 minutes. You have to drive to the hoop strong and get 2, or draw a foul, or preferably both.
    Rondo doesn’t drive the lane strong, and gets blocked A LOT. so his only option is baseline kick out to Pierce, Ray, or KG. And that’s easy to telegraph and defend.

  • Perry

    Not sure what else PP has to do to impress you guys.
    First, and this is not a knock on Rajon, but he has not proved he can consistently hit a 20 footer unguarded or with a lock down defender in his shorts. Many times I’ve watched him quarterback the team in a last possession situation and he’s settled for a bad three or a jumper. He just hasn’t knocked them down enough for opposing teams to respect his shot.
    Now having him handle the ball in a last possession is fine, but what happens is teams know he’s not a threat to can the shot. Usually it’s Pierce who winds up with the mismatch (Rondo’s man).
    Over the years he’s been the most consistent, lethal weapon available when this team needs a basket. He’s got the entire shot arsenal and knows how to sell his body and get to the line.
    Are the officials going to give Pierce the call or Rondo with the game on the line? Right now that mantle still belongs to Pierce.
    Pierce has also proved he can make that pass when the defense keys on him. Just ask Glen Davis or Ray Allen. Even his game as a decoy is better than Rondo’s.
    It’ll take time,. but I do believe we’ll see more of Rondo with the ball in the final seconds of a tight game.

  • flynny

    I agree entirely. The celts play there best ball when rondo pushes the tempo.
    Several problems come about in the 4th… first, being that rondo is inconsistent (and not confident) at the line. if he could hit his free throws, he could absolutely dominate teams down the stretch. I also worry that rondo isnt able to push the tempo in the 4th because of who’s around him… could ray, paul and kg run with him? do they have the legs?
    the way the 2nd unit has been playing (until last night obviously) i wouldn’t mind seeing them log more minutes on a nightly basis so the starters are fresh come stretch time.. or possibly even seeing someone like baby or daniels on the floor at crunch time with rondo

  • DRJ

    One bad game from Quis. Happens to every player.

  • DRJ

    Agree (with the article). This point has been pretty clear for a while now. They’ve GOT to see it. They CAN’T be missing it… I think we’ll see some changes soon.

  • tyquinton

    GREAT ARTICLE……The problem’s Pierce is selfish. Remember Rondo saying people her have own agenda’s. His inference was directed to Pierce. Pierce is supposed to be the captain. The problem with that is he’s not a leader. VERY good player but not a leader. Rondo is not the best player but he is the better leader. A team should run it’s normal offense in crunch time and good things will happen. We have three Hall of Fame players on the floor at the same time but Pierce is the only one that can take the shot. That’s being selfish, and not a good team mate. Pay attention to this next game. KG is injured that’s no secret right. Then why does he consistently out run Pierce down the court. Pierce is slow as dirt can’t guard your garage. He NEEDS TO BE TRADED NOT RAY.
    Doc Rivers should walk the plank (shark meat). Either Danny is horrible at selecting young talent or Doc cant develop young guys. Pick your poison…one of the two is coming up short. I think it’s Doc. Ever think about how much money is put into the rookie total costs each year. Think 10 Million is low but lets go with that. Lets add in Doc salary (what ever). No coach is worth that much each year.

  • It’s ridiculous. Makes no sense. If he had problems with turnovers, I could maybe see it but it’s absurd to see the Pierce/KG attempt at a pick, which means Pierce dribbles into a triple team.

  • Danno

    Trade Pierce.
    You’re a fucking idiot.

  • I’ve been thinking it all season as we’ve seen him continue to grow and become more consistent. Rondo has clearly been the best player on our tema this year and the offense should always run through him.

  • Tommy has been hollering about this for years. Doc calls for these sets in crunch time because he feels Pierce is the closer (similar to lebron in late game cav possessions). I agree it kills the whole flow of the entire game and usually only allows for 1 contested shot.

  • Shakers

    Normally I agree with you, but Rondo was NOT making a 15 footer last night. He was barely hitting the rim.

  • sev

    I agree with everything said about Rondo having the ball in his hands to call a play or just penetrate and find the open man, but Doc calls the plays and just as Perry said, Pierce has all the weapons to score, and he has earned the reputation with the refs to get calls. Also, I see Ray Allen taking the last shot quite a bit as well, and I’m sure KG would get his number called when comp healthy. Really don’t think it has anything to do with pierce trying to be the hero. Its usually a play call at the end of the games, and I’m sure his teammates are comfortable with him making a play which doesn’t always involve him shooting if there’s a wide open teammate. Rondo does always seem to make good plays, but at the end of the game the defense would really collapse and then theres rondo’s inability to make free throws. Either situation has its pros and cons.

  • whoa… let’s not go overboard here. I love Paul Pierce… my whole point is that the Celtics are changing their offense at the end of games. They get to where they are one way…. then they change it.
    Pierce is a Hall of Famer and he should retire a Celtic. Let’s be clear about that

  • NorthernGreen

    As I have said in the past, “DOC” isn’t doing his job. He allows the big 3 or at least Pierce to run the show when it is he who should be holding the reins.

  • Rav

    I think the Pierce offense whould only start with less than 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter. The right balance between stagnating the offense but having the ability to drive, shoot and draw fouls.