Sunday, November 7, 2010
Big test: Who can contain Rajon Rondo?
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks picked a bad time for a two-game home losing streak. Snapping the skid won't be easy Monday night when the Boston Celtics come to town.
Since the Big Three -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- joined forces in Beantown, the Celtics have won all three meetings in Dallas. The good news for the Mavs is that Boston plays at Oklahoma City Sunday night (although the second night of a back-to-back didn't stop Denver from leaving with a win Saturday). The bad news is Boston is undeniably the Big Four now with point guard Rajon Rondo truly running the show.
He's averaging 11.1 points and an eye-popping 14.7 assists, more than four more than the NBA's next best, Jason Kidd (10.8). Speedy, full-service point guards like Rondo tend to terrorize Dallas defenders.
"Rondo’s their key facilititaor. Containing him is a priority," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "And look, the other area he impacts the game is with his defense and his ability to deflect and steal the ball. He was the league leader in steals last year and so you’ve got to have an awareness of where he’s at on the floor."
Starting two-guard Jason Terry would figure to get first crack at Rondo, who is just too quick for Kidd. Even against the Nuggets, it was Terry who started off on point guard Chauncey Billups, while Kidd took off-guard Aaron Afflalo.
Through six games, Rondo is averaging a career-high 41.3 minutes a game, so multiple Mavs will be assigned to Rondo, who might force Dallas in a zone more often than usual. The 6-foot-1, fifth-year pro has had just one game to start this season in which he did not record double-digit assits. He settled for nine. He posted 17 dimes in the season-opening win over Miami and had a career-high 24 against the Knicks.
Rondo's recent line against the Milwaukee Bucks: 17 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.
His 82 assists through the first five games set an NBA record, and he has the Celtics averaging more than 100 points a game. In Sunday's 92-83 win at Oklahoma City, Rondo had 10 more assists and recorded his third consecutive double-double.
"Whether we’re playing man or zone or whether Jet’s guarding him or whether J-Kidd’s guarding him or Jose Juan Barea’s guarding him, it’s going to be the same priorities: contain," Carlisle said. "The other thing he’s really good at it is he’s a really good offensive rebounder for a point guard. He’s a lot like [Oklahoma City's Russell] Westbrook. And they put him around the basket a lot, too, in their spacing scenario. So, they’re a terrific team, he’s a terrific player. It’s a challenging game for us."