From full-court touchdown passes, to his patented behind-the-back ball fakes, and even a demoralizing late three in game 2, Rajon Rondo made his presence felt early in this series and reminded us all why “Playoff Rondo” is nothing to mess with.
After their 131-123 win on Friday over the Blazers, the Pelicans will be moving on to the 2nd round of the playoffs where they’ll likely be squaring off with the Golden State Warriors. It marks the franchises first playoff series win since 2008 when Chris Paul led the then, New Orleans Hornets, to the Western Conference Semi-Finals, where they would eventually lose the series in 7 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Coming into the matchup, no one could have predicted the outcome of this series ending in a sweep for either team. But the Pelicans dominance was visible from the opening tip. They wanted to end this thing sooner rather than later.
Anthony Davis did exactly what we expected Anthony Davis to do. He led the team in points (33.0), rebounds (12.3), blocks (2.8), and steals (1.8). He imposed his dominance from the jump and made one of the NBA’s better defense’s look completely hopeless.
Jrue Holiday stepped up huge on both sides of the floor producing instant offense while also containing possible All-NBA First Team guard Damian Lillard to the worst playoff series of his career. The series marked career lows in the following categories for Lillard — points (18.5), field-goal percentage (.352), free-throw attempts (4.0), turnovers (4.0). It was a remarkable display of individual defense.
Nikola Mirotic turned into Dirk Nowitzki with his red-hot shooting giving the Pelicans a very solid 18.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds with a stupendously efficient 57-46-83 shooting splits. He also contributed on the defensive side with an impressive 2.5 blocks and 1.8 steals per contest. “Playoff Mirotic” might be a thing.
And rounding out this pact of stat-sheet stuffers is a player who’s built his reputation on mesmerizing passes and dominant playoff performances, Rajon Rondo. The 2008 NBA champion has found a new home in New Orleans and is making the most of his opportunity with a roster that plays to his strengths and masks his weaknesses. Alongside teammate Jrue Holiday, the two have formed one of the more dynamic tandems in the league and are taking the playoffs by storm.
After going up 2-0 in last year’s first-round matchup against the #1 seed Celtics, many believed the Bulls were on their way to pulling off an upset and it was in large part due to the play of Rondo who averaged a near triple-double (11.5ppg, 10.0apg, 8.5rpg) through the first 2 games of the series.
Unfortunately, Rondo would have to miss the rest of the series due to a fractured right thumb. His absence would allow the Bulls to win the next 4 games of the series and advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
This disappointing ending left more to be desired for and left many fans wondering how the series would’ve ended with a healthy Rondo on the floor.
Fast forward a year later and here we are in a similar situation. Rondo’s team without home court advantage? Check. Near triple-double in the first two games of the series? (11.0ppg, 13.0apg, 9.0rpg). Check. Going on the road and leaving an entire city questioning if their season is over? It all checks out. But this time, Rondo wouldn’t be held back by any injuries. He’d go on to play the next 2 games and outplay All-Star point guard Damian Lillard in every game of the series in convincing fashion.
In those 6 playoff games, Rondo’s teams are 6-0 and he’s averaging 11.3ppg, 12.2apg, 7.8rpg, 1.7spg on 46% shooting. He’s as reliable as it comes to a playoff performer.
As for this series, Rondo has led both teams in assists in each game, even matching the Blazers assist total(17) as a team in game 1.
He’s orchestrated the Pelicans offense with classic Rondo passes reminiscent of his Celtic days. His ability to penetrate into the paint and deliver a pass right into the shooter’s pocket for open three’s, or drop a no-look pass down low for the easy 2 has made the rest of his teammate’s jobs that much more trouble-free.
Playoff Rondo. Surgical. pic.twitter.com/TnBanjMagk
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 21, 2018
His playmaking has allowed Jrue Holiday to take on a larger scoring load and play off the ball more frequently, and it’s worked wonders for the Pelicans’ offense. And let’s also not forget Rondo’s ability to play defense. The pairing of these two in the backcourt has caused all sorts of dilemmas for the Blazers’ backcourt who have coughed up a combined 25 turnovers with only 33 assists.
With Rondo’s high IQ and elite playmaking, the Pelicans have the 2nd best offensive-rating among all 16 playoff teams, just below the Warriors. He currently leads all players in total assists (53), and assists per game (13.2). His 17 assists in game 1, and 16 assists in game 4 are the most assists in a single game this post-season. He finished the series averaging 12.7 points, 12.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds with a playoff career-best .546 true shooting percentage.
Rondo put the finishing touches on the series by turning in a 7 point, 7 rebound, 16 assists, 2 turnover performance in game 4.
Now, the man who’s earned the moniker “Playoff Rondo” sits and waits for the next victim to feel the wrath of his wicked playmaking and sniper accurate passes.
– Photos Via Google Images