In the first two GreenLab series we delved into the various options that the Celtics and Rajon Rondo run to defeat the "Under-Screen" and "Sagging" defenses. Those are the two most common methods that opponents utilize to negate Rondo's offensive strengths, hoping to force him into his biggest weakness: outside shooting.
Scoring is not Rondo's primary goal for this particular team. Has he been lucky to have been surrounded with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? Of course. But to that end, you still have to prove that you can get the job done and he has, especially elevating his game (and numbers) in the playoffs. Unlike Chicago and Derrick Rose for example, Doc Rivers has designed quite a few impressive sets to use Rondo's strengths in synergy with the great players around him.
For today's experiement in the GreenLab, we will go over an interesting set in which Rondo and Pierce work a 2-man game from the free throw line.
Example 1-4: Celtics @ Spurs 4 Options – In this first clip, we'll go through four options that Rondo and Pierce ran against the Spurs.
- 0:00 – 0:07 – Instead of setting a high screen and roll, Pierce sets the screen at the free throw line, picking off Tony Parker and allowing Rondo to make his move even close to the basket, thus limiting the time it takes for Tim Duncan to step up and defend Rondo's attack. This time the play fails, but the idea here is a good one, setting the screen closer to the basket.
- 0:08 – 0:18 – Rondo passes it to Pierce who has his back to the basket, on the high post against Richard Jefferson. Rondo fakes a cut, then screen for Pierce who curls around RJ for the quick jumper.
- 0:19 – 0:28 – Same exact play as the one described above, works beautifully.
- 0:29 – 0:39 – Same initial setup as the last two described, except instead of setting a hard screen on RJ, Rondo fakes it, then makes a quick cut to the basket, receiving the pass from Pierce for the lay-up before Duncan can stop him.
Example 5: Celtics vs Pistons – This is similar to the middle two plays described in the San Antonio clip with the only difference showing how Pierce can elude the defender if he tries to steal the ball or overplay him. Pierce executes a nice spin move to knock down the jumper.
Example 6: Celtics vs Knicks G1 Playoffs – In this set, the objective is to get Rondo's man (Chauncey Billups) to switch on Pierce in the high post, allowing Pierce to post up/go to work on the smaller defender. While Billups is an apt defender, he has no shot of stopping Pierce in the middle without help. Shawne Williams, Chauncey's helper, is forced to foul Pierce.
Example 7: Celtics vs Knicks G1 Playoffs 2 – This is the same setup as the previous example, except we see how Billups is solid at denying Pierce the ball. When Pierce does get it, Williams does a better job at helping, but this time Pierce is able to draw him over, freeing up Jermaine O'Neal who cuts to the hoop, receives a nice pass from Pierce for the easy lay-up.
Example 8: Celtics vs Knicks G1 Playoffs 3 – A little different setup initially, with Ray Allen bringing the ball up, but just as a disguise. Rondo is already setting up at the free throw line, posting up. Ray passes it to Pierce who begins his attack near mid-court, and passes to Rondo. Rondo does a quick no-look bounce pass to Pierce on a nice give-and-go, while also picking Pierce's man. Pierce drills the baseline jumper.