So, what will Rajon Rondo do for an encore? That might depend on which member of the Cavaliers takes on the Celtics guard on the defensive end of the court.
The spelling might be slightly different, but Rajon Rondo has been very much like Ronco’s famous “Veg-O-Matic.” Rondo has sliced and diced the Cleveland defense and cut up the Cavaliers guards like helpless tomatoes or onions.
Even with an up-and-down Game 3 performance, he’s averaging 21.8 points, 13 assists and 8.3 rebounds per contest and is the biggest reason Boston and Cleveland is now best two of three.
NBA playoff basketball is about making adjustments from game to game. Cleveland was more aggressive from the start in Game 3, as LeBron James and his teammates bottled up Boston from the opening tap and free-wheeled around the TD Garden going wherever they wanted in winning 124-95 as one-point underdogs.
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Coach Doc Rivers didn’t like his offense or defense in that contest and made two modifications for Sunday’s game. He wanted every defender to create more on-ball pressure, thus limiting Cleveland’s ability to drive or pass wherever they desired to go and got more hands up on shots and limited the Cavs to 40.3 percent shooting after draining 59.5 percent two days prior.
Though not publicly stated since series opener, Rivers evidently gave Rondo the green light to take the ball and go rim-running whether he had teammates or not. Rivers had said after Game 1 he wanted other Celtics players to run with Rondo in transition. They did for the most part in second contest in Cleveland, but went back to old ways in being drubbed in next tilt.
Rondo appeared to have free reign Sunday afternoon and carved up the Cavaliers defense for 29 points, 13 assists and a Bill Russell-like 18 rebounds. Boston won by 10 as 1.5-point home dogs and is 5-1 ATS after winning as a home underdog.
LeBron James has surveyed the situation and is tired of watching his guards get cleaved up by Rondo.
"I think it starts with Rondo. He's kind of the engine that really gets them going," James said. "He does everything for them. His performance was unbelievable. Rondo was definitely the difference maker."
James has increasing taken pride in his ability to stop opposing players and was spotted by more than one courtside observer in Boston letting coach Mike Brown know he wants to get into defensive stance against Rondo.
"I would love to," James said after the game. "It's something we maybe should explore because Rondo is definitely dominating this series at the point guard position. For me, I don't have a problem taking Rondo or guarding Rondo throughout the course of the game. If the coaching staff or the guys want me to do it, I will."
This is not unprecedented for the Cavs as King James guarded Derrick Rose in last series and limited what the Bulls guard could do taking turns with teammates.
Cleveland is 13-4 ATS off an upset loss as a road favorite and is a 7½-point pick at Bookmaker.com with total of 193½. This strategy might come out of necessity for coach Brown whose team is 16-6 ATS as a home favorite of 6½ to 9 points. Since the guards are not handling the lightning quick Boston guard and are once again ineffective as scorers, just like in Orlando series in last season’s playoffs, Brown might be forced to employ this method.
The green-clad C’s are 11-4-1 ATS in postseason underdog role and know the better defense they play, that leaves more chances for the former Kentucky guard to run free in the open court.
This TNT 8 p.m. Eastern matchup has alternated 'overs' and 'unders' in the first four meetings; however, the 'over' is still 6-2 in previous eight matchups.
StatFox Power Line – Cleveland by 6