Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo


Celtics ready for the Heat to sag off Rondo

By Rich Levine

WALTHAM Back in the 2008 Finals, as the Celtics were on the way to their first title in 22 years and Rajon Rondo (only 22 years old at the time) was still fighting to find his role alongside the Big 3, the Lakers employed unique Rondo-specific defense that gave the young point guard fits.

Basically, Phil Jackson had Kobe guard Rondo, but not really guard him. Instead, having Bryant sag off No. 9, take advantage of his faulty jumper (and confidence) and use the extra space to wreak havoc everywhere else. As Rondo stood on the perimeter, unable andor willing to shoot, Bryant hedged off screens, doubled in the post and in the process essentially rendered Rondo ineffective.

The Celtics pulled out the series, but the blueprint for limiting Rondo had been laid out.

Three years later and that defense is still a hot topic.

Expect a healthy helping as Boston and Miami take off in round two.

Youll see Chalmers and Bibby guarding Rondo, but youll also LeBron and Wade, Doc Rivers said. Theyll go to the Rondo Defense and theyll be trapping off him and helping off him, and how we handle that will be key to this series."

But Rondos come along way since the 2008 Finals. Sure, the Sag-Off-Rondo defense is still probably the best way to defend him, but its not automatic. Hes learned how to beat it or at least, play around it.

The most effective thing he can do is just move without the ball. As hes moving, LeBron or Wade or whoever cant just leave him to trap. If theyre forced to chase Rondo around (especially if he can slash through the lane), so much of their focus will be occupied there, and they can be as helpful elsewhere.

On top of staying active, Rivers highlighted some other ways for Rondo to stay effective: Getting into the offensive pace, he said. Attacking, being a pace-setter. And he does it well, I think hes handled it very well this year.

Kevin Garnett agrees.

(Rondos) gotten more confident in his style and play, he said. Hes not afraid to hit the 15-17 foot jumper and does a good job of mixing his play. Slow, fast, fast slow; he keeps defense on their heels and we need him to be aggressive all series.

When asked about the potential sagging defense, Rondo was predictably coy, hinting that well all find out the answer on Sunday.

I dont know, he said. Everybody plays different. Well see Game 1.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Following Thursday’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics will be on the prowl to rebound – literally – from its first defeat of the season.

Because for all that did not go right in Thursday night’s loss, the way Boston was beaten on the boards stands out emphatically.

“They got 24 more shots than us. We only turned it over (12) times,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “So that’s the obvious place they’re getting their possessions, on the glass. That’s going to be the number one thing, that has been the number one thing. It’s something we’ve talked about. We have to get better at it.”


Boston was out-rebounded 55-36 on the boards which heavily factored into Chicago’s 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.

In the Celtics' 122-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Boston won the overall rebounding battle 47-44, but had just 12 offensive rebounds compared to Brooklyn's 15 offensive boards. Despite the close margin, the Nets won the battle on the offensive glass running away, outscoring the Celtics 23-13 in second-chance points.

Stevens decided to start Tyler Zeller ahead of Amir Johnson to begin the third quarter, hoping Zeller would be a better matchup on the glass than Johnson who did not grab a single rebound in the 11 minutes of court time he got in the first half.

While Zeller did do a few good things on the glass and scoring in half-court sets, it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum Chicago was steadily gaining due to its ability to control the boards.

“I wasn’t real surprised but at the same time I knew it could happen,” Zeller told reporters, referring to Stevens’ decision to have him start the second half. “They did a good job of coming out and setting the tone. They beat us up on the boards, especially the first half. It’s something we have to get better at and continue to grow at.”

And it’s not a one-player or one-position issue, either.

Usually we think of bigs when it comes to rebounding. But Boston’s guards need to step up their rebounding game as well.

The struggles thus far have to be put in the context of this being just two games, the latter being the season opener for the Bulls who were jacked up more than usual due to it being the first game for Chicago native Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

“We have to focus on boxing out,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Guards have to do a better job. Guys like me, Al (Horford), Amir (Johnson), Tyler (Zeller) ... We have to do a good job of coming in the weak side and grabbing those; just focus on it, pay more attention to detail.”