Let me say up front that I'm not basing my argument entirely on how the Wizards defended Rajon Rondo… because they're pretty terrible defensively. But they do provide a couple of examples of the reaction to Rajon Rondo attacking the basket.
The "book" on Rondo says he will pass… a lot… even when he's got what might be good looks. So when you look at the video, you'll see Javale McGee… a 7-foot tall, high flying shot blocker… jab step at Rondo when he gets past John Wall rather than follow him to the rim to challenge the shot. With Glen Davis hanging around off the in the corner, McGee is clearly more concerned about Rondo passing it than taking the shot. Again, that's Rondo's M.O… so even though Baby is at the 3-point line, McGee knows that if he steps in to either take a charge or try for a block, that ball will be passed.
John Wall does the same thing on the second lay up. He picked up Big Baby on a switch and rather than challenge Rondo at the rim, he took a jab step at him and immediately retreats.
Again… not exactly the best defense in the world, but an example of the mentality involved in playing Rondo and what to do when he gets that deep. Which leads to the question in the headline.
I'm not suggesting the first half of the season is a pre-meditated set up for a second-half scoring surge… it certainly has worked out that way. It's no secret Rondo is not only pass-first point guard… he's a pass second, third and fourth point guard. And Rondo's a smart guy. So if he sees guys just jabbing at him and trying to take away all his passing lanes, he'll also see that there are clearer paths to the rim, and thus more opportunities to score.
Even if Rondo is dead-set on getting 15 assists a game, he's smart enough to know that at some point you've got to soften up the defense. It's the equivalent of having Tom Brady in the backfield and a ton of great receivers. At some point, the defense is going to dare you to run the ball… and you HAVE to run it in those situations just to show them that you will… and give yourself the opening to do what you really wanted to do all along: pass.
If defenses are going to so overplay the passing lanes, then Rondo's got no choice but to take some of the shots he's been passing up. Once teams see you're willing to drop 15 points (or more) in a few games, they'll have to respect the drive a little bit more… and that will open things back up for Rondo to drop the dimes he so desperately wants to rack up. We've already seen Rondo taking more mid-range shots (3.4 per game in his last 10 vs. two per game in December according to HoopData.com) so we're seeing a willingness to do it. So this leads me to believe we'll see more scoring out of Rondo in the second half of the season… just so he can go back to being the assist machine he wants to be come playoff time.