Rajon Rondo, Celtics try to strike delicate balance tonight

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From The Boston Herald…

Say what you want about Paul Pierce’s scoring, and the need for Kevin Garnett’s scoring, and every other wrinkle in the Celtics offense, but the team walks a fine line every night with its point guard.

When Rajon Rondo is at his creative best — which is about as good as it gets for a point guard — the Celtics run what Doug Collins referred to on Monday night as the most efficient offense in the league.

“They take the fewest shots of anyone,” said the Sixers coach.

And yet the Celtics often bemoan their own execution. Philadelphia won Game 2 on Monday night in part because the Celtics had too many brain cramps down the stretch. Garnett’s offensive foul with 10 seconds left — an illegal pick on Lou Williams after the Celtics center was warned by referee Dan Crawford about his leaning — was the most naked moment.

But the ball also stuck. Rondo held the ball for too long during one possession in the last minute before missing a jumper. Despite Garnett’s explosive scoring over his previous two games, the point guard seemed to forget about the big guy who has been in that rare zone where he wants the ball.

Instead, Garnett only took 12 shots, including three by halftime. Brandon Bass, someone the Celtics were trying to prime, took 15, including 12 in the first half. Something on the execution meter was out of kilter.

Garnett, never one to criticize teammates or coaches, alluded to the problem later on when he said, “I don’t call the plays. You know, Doc . . . you know, Rondo . . . we’re trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’s what it is. Whatever he asks me to do is what I’m going to do.”

The problem — and blessing — is that much has been left to Rondo’s whim.

As much as Rivers dislikes when Rondo starts to freelance in what they call “random” mode, improvisation is also what makes the point guard great.

“That’s a tough one, and it is every night,” Rivers said of trying to find a balance between random and set offense. “I let Rondo do that. I need him to just go play, and we try to figure it out during the game. We need him in random. As much as any guard in the league he needs to be in random at times.

“There’s times when we’re struggling in that and we need to get certain guys the ball and we need to get back in movement. For the most part he has a great feel of it. I thought in the fourth quarter (of Game 1) we got into the perfect rhythm. We ran and we got a lot of good shots. But then we also executed a lot of stuff and got shots. We need both.”

And sometimes it can be so much simpler. Garnett had scored 57 points over the two games prior to Monday night. As much as players like Bass, Mickael Pietrus and even Avery Bradley needed to get involved, those considerations can’t come at the expense of the hottest shot maker on the team.

“Execution,” Garnett said of that ongoing dilemma. “We didn’t execute the way we know we can. We went away from a lot of different things. Post presence, we had it late, not until the fourth quarter.

“We’re a better team than what we played, so we’ll watch film and we’ll get better.”

With Game 3 tonight in Philadelphia, there’s not a lot of time for reflection. Maybe that’s a good thing.

(continue reading)

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