Lakers 112 Rockets 102

Small ball may have worked in Game 1 but not since.

Jim Rome
September 09, 2020 - 9:30 am
Rajon Rondo

USA Today

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Before last night’s Rockets-Lakers game, I have to admit – I didn’t really have a good feel for that series. Houston small-balled the hell of the Lakers in game to get the early jump in the series. Then they were getting hammered in Game 2, yet came all the way back from a 21 point deficit despite the fact that Russell Westbrook looked like he had never played basketball before. Which is a huge part of the problem right? One of the biggest reasons this series is so hard to get a read on, is you never know which Russ you’re going to get from night-to-night. Great Russ. Or Horrible Russ. 

And last night, it was much closer to the former than the latter. And I were to tell you Rocket fan, Russ would go for 30, 8, and 6 and no one lost an eye with him shooting it,  in a critical game 3, you’d probably take that, right? Hell yes you would. Well he did all that. And it still didn’t matter. 

They lost 112-102. And that loss is down to two people: LeBron Raymone James Senior and Rajon Pierre Rondo, better known as King James and Playoff Rondo.

And just for the record, I know that Rondo doesn’t like the Playoff Rondo title and I get it, because it can undercut what he does in the regular season; which is fine. Although to be fair, he really has done jack in the regular season of late. Other than get hurt. And not produce. But that doesn’t matter right now. Not when this dude can just walk in and find another gear in the playoffs. Because he has. Again. And for the Lakers, isn’t the question always, who is going be that number three option beyond LeBron and AD. You never really know from night to night. Well, you know last night: freaking Rondo, who was enormous off the bench for LA. 

Rondo was so good, you could get caught focusing only on him. And get caught sleeping on LeBron: I mean, sure LeBron was unbelievable again last night. But is really unbelievable if the guy pretty much does that EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I mean, really.  Is it?  Hell yes it is. And don’t even thinking about sleeping on this old man; because he’s still pound for pound, best in class. And just because he does it on the regular doesn’t mean it’s not freaky. In fact, it's the fact that he does it regularly that makes it freaky. 

Here are a few numbers: 36 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. And again, he’s doing this at 35. That is freaking impossible. Absolutely unheard of. He’s on the floor with two other league MVP’s and at least four Hall of Famers, and he is head and shoulders the best player on the court. At 35.

He was hitting from deep. He was carving up Houston with passes, like this one to the Caru-show.

He was getting out on the break.

And he’s absolutely embarrassing guys on defense too.

Get that weak stuff out of here. And there was more where that came from.

LeBron and the Lakers won that game on defense and especially with their fourth quarter defense. They just locked Houston up. They’re much longer, and more physical: that was a mug job. Small ball just got punched in the face. Again. They were trapping the pick and roll, getting in passing lanes, and clamping down from there. They held Houston to just 38 points in the second half.

And the scary thing for Houston fans after last night is: they hit 40% of their threes. It wasn’t a terrible shooting night. And they didn’t turn the ball over. And Russ was good. And James Harden went for 33, 9, and 9. And they still lost by double digits. 

And remember those dopes who said that LeBron wasn’t a true Laker and that he didn’t understand what being a Laker was all about. Check this from LeBron about Kobe and the Laker tradition.

Speaking of takes that are starting to look pretty bad, remember all those Laker fans who wanted Frank Vogel to bench Rondo for Dion Waiters? Where are all you geniuses now? Because I know where Rondo is –  was on the floor and looking like the Rondo of a decade ago.

Holy crap, Playoff Rondo has officially arrived and there’s nothing this guy can do again: 21 points and 9 assists. He was setting up Anthony Davis for alley-oops

And he was hitting from three and chasing it with a steal and a layup.

That was part of a personal 8-0 Rondo Run that took the Lakers from up one to up eight. If Rondo is knocking in threes, you can cancel Christmas. It doesn’t matter what else you’re doing, when Rajon Rondo is hot from outside, it’s going to be a long night.

And it’s not just about the offense, he’s rolling out there looking to defend James Harden and Russell Westbrook as well.

And as a reminder, this is a guy who didn’t play in the first round and prior to that, had played in zero games and one practice in the previous six months. That is a freaking pro. That is a guy who shows up when it matters. And just throws the switch. You’re not supposed to be able to do that. But Rondo can. And he does. 

As Anthony Davis said: “His intensity picks up (in the postseason). He wants to guard the best perimeter guy. We see he guards James (Harden) and (Russell Westbrook) sometimes. … He’s shooting the ball very well, making the right passes, so his IQ is on another level. We’ve got the two best IQ guys in the game, him and LeBron, on the floor at the same time, which is tough for defenses, and he’s making the right plays.”

And then he added: “Playoff Rondo is real. And he showed up tonight.”

Or, as LeBron put it: “Some people are built for this moment, some people are not.”

And Rondo definitely is.

I don’t know what’s more insane – that Rondo is doing that at 34 or that Rondo is only 34. It feels like he was in Boston about forty years ago. Didn’t he run with Bird and McHale? Or did he link up with Bob Cousy for that two-headed monster in the backcourt?

How is that guy still playing at this level? And how is he doing it with that intensity after not playing for so long? Just like LeBron, that defies belief. That’s not to say he’s going to do this every night from here on out, and if you’re a Rondo Hater or a Laker Hater, you better hope he doesn’t. Because if he does, look the hell out. Small ball may have worked in Game 1 but not since; and Harden and Russ both got theirs last night and they still got worked. Really bad news for the Rockets and everyone else still running in the bubble.