NBA PM: James, Wade Realize Full Potential
The Miami HEAT and Boston Celtics were battling back and forth, with neither star-studded team going away. The first game of the Eastern Conference Finals was tied at halftime and the two teams were trading baskets. With just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, it was a one-possession game.
That’s when it happened.
Dwyane Wade gathered a rebound, spun his body around and delivered a full-court pass to LeBron James, who caught the ball in stride and finished at the rim. The basket was only worth two points, but it gave Miami the momentum they needed. They would end the third quarter with a double-digit lead that they held onto for the rest of the evening.
These highlight plays have become a familiar sight in recent weeks. At times, it seems like James and Wade are toying with the opposition, passing the ball back and forth several times as if to say, ‘Who should score this time?’ The two superstars have been absolutely dominant since Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal strain, putting up ridiculous numbers in four straight games.
In Game 4 against the Pacers, James and Wade combined for 70 points and took the momentum back from Indiana. In Game 5, they totaled 58 points. In Game 6, they sent the Pacers home with a combined 69 points. Then in Game 1 against the Celtics, they continued to carry Miami, finishing with a combined 54 points and winning in convincing fashion.
Right now, James and Wade are playing the two-man game to perfection. They’ve never looked this scary and it’s hard to imagine them losing a series with how dominant they’ve been on both ends of the floor. Last year, they would take turns dominating the ball and end up resorting to hero ball. Now, they’re playing off of one another and making each other better in the half-court offense and transition.
“We just feel more comfortable on the court, no matter who is out there with us,” James said. “We try to complement one another, we try feed off each other’s energy and we always stay in attack mode to try to help our team. It’s definitely a high comfort level right now, and we just have to keep it going.”
“I think we’re doing a good job of playing off each other,” Wade said. “We’re both being aggressive, and we understand when the other guy has a certain match-up that he can expose to get his own shot or a double team. We’re playing good basketball right now. We’re playing a lot of minutes together, which allows us to play on the ball and off the ball since we can both handle the ball. We just got to keep it up.
When Bosh went down, James and Wade realized that they had to step up. If they wanted to advance past the Pacers and further, the duo had to increase their offensive production after losing someone who averaged 18 points. Critics questioned whether or not Miami could win with a Big Two rather than a Big Three. Most teams would struggle if they relied so heavily on two players, but most teams don’t have a pair of teammates as talented as James and Wade.
“We have to execute a lot better because we don’t have another guy that we can throw the ball down to and say, ‘Ok, get us a bucket,” Wade said. “Obviously, we run a lot of pick-and-rolls- and a lot of post-ups, but we have to execute a lot better and get better looks because we have one less guy that can get us 20 points a game. We don’t have the luxury of having Chris and his 20 points.”
Not only are they scoring at will and stepping up on offense, they’re showing why they’re two of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers praised their defense after Game 1 and explained that players can’t prepare for their defense, you simply have to experience it.
“LeBron and Dwyane, their defense was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “I thought they did a great job of doubling and playing the passing lanes. They’re cat quick. That’s what they are. We knew that entering the series, but as much as you can watch it and prepare for it, I think you need to face it once to get used to it. I thought their speed, at times, overwhelmed us.”
Few teams have two players who are capable of dominating on both ends to singlehandedly lead their team to victory. Even fewer have a duo that can get hot simultaneously and play off each other effectively as Miami’s superstars have done as of late.
James and Wade have always been one of the best one-two punches on paper, but now they’re realizing their full potential on the court and looking nearly unstoppable.
Rondo’s Historically Good Postseason: Rajon Rondo never got the credit he deserved early in his career because he was playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Rondo’s job was to stay out of the way and not make mistakes so that the three Hall of Famers to be could guide the Boston Celtics to victory. He was the little brother, who would often be teased or laughed at in the locker room when he copied the veteran’s pregame rituals or practice habits.
Now, there’s no question that the Celtics are Rondo’s team. As Garnett, Pierce and Allen continue to decline and near retirement, Rondo is reaching his prime and putting Boston on his back. He’s now one of the veterans, leading the team to victory and etching his name in the NBA’s record books.
This postseason, Rondo has been historically good while filling to stat sheet on a nightly basis.
Against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rondo averaged 14.1 points, 12.7 assists and 7.4 rebounds. Only one other player in NBA history has met those averages in a best-of-seven series: Magic Johnson, who averaged 18 points, 13.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds in the 1984 NBA Finals.
Rondo has already recorded three triple-doubles this postseason. In the last five postseasons, Rondo has recorded the same number of triple-doubles as the rest of the players in the league combined. In his career, Rondo has nine playoff triple-doubles, which puts him in elite company. He’s tied for fourth all-time with Wilt Chamberlain, trailing only Magic Johnson (30), Jason Kidd (11) and Larry Bird (10).
Not bad for a 26-year-old.
Now, facing the Miami HEAT, Rondo will have to deliver another jaw-dropping performance for Boston to advance. In Game 1, he contributed 16 points, 7 assists and 9 rebounds, but Miami was able to frustrate him into shooting 8-20 from the field. After the game, HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra praised Rondo.
“It’s extremely tough to scheme against Rondo,” Spoelstra said. “He’s that unique. It’s his unpredictability that’s his greatness. The only thing you can emphasize is that you have to make unpredictable, possession-saving plays as well. He can go off at any time and he can do a lot of different things.”
Rondo’s moves are incredibly difficult to predict. Oftentimes, it doesn’t seem like Rondo knows where he is going until moments before he takes off.
“He’s probably the number one unpredictable guy we have in this league,” LeBron James said. “He forces his action. A lot of his points come in transition and you want to defend him, but then he’ll spray out for open threes. He’s that good. He forces a lot of our triggers and forces us to pay a lot of attention to him. He’s able to get himself a shot or someone else a shot. We’re just trying to make it tough on him and wear him down throughout the game, but he’s a great talent.”
Rondo is at his best when he’s attacking and throwing teams off with his unpredictably. He’s almost always the fastest player on the court and he can beat teams in so many ways. When he slows down and starts to over-think, that’s when he struggles.
“He has to be on the attack,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. “He was reading a lot instead of just playing off of his instincts. I think, at times, his IQ hurts him. He’s always trying to read the defense, but you can read and play at a fast speed at the same time. We go through it a lot. It’ll be, ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it. Your instincts will take over and you’ll make the right decision.’”
That’s the scariest thing about Rondo: He’s still learning. He’s already capable of dominating games, but his best basketball is yet to come.
2012 NBA Draft Lottery Odds: The winner of the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery will be determined tomorrow at 8 p.m. While the Charlotte Bobcats are the favorite to win the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, recent history shows that the team with the most ping-pong balls doesn’t always land the first overall pick.
Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the lottery with only a 2.8 percent chance. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls won the lottery with only a 1.7 percent chance. In fact, the team with the best odds has only won the lottery three times since 1994, when the lottery moved to its current format.
The Brooklyn Nets are crossing their fingers for a top-three pick. If their pick lands outside of the top three, the Portland Trail Blazers will acquire the pick as part of the Gerald Wallace trade.
The Utah Jazz will get the Golden State Warriors’ pick unless it falls in the top seven. However, the two teams have been discussing a trade in recent days that would further protect the pick.
Here are the odds heading into tomorrow’s event:
Percent Chance: 25%
Percent Chance: 9.9%
Percent Chance: 13.8%
New Orleans Hornets
Percent Chance: 14.8%
(New Orleans also owns the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pick, which has 1.1% shot)
Percent Chance: 7.6%
Percent Chance: 7.5%
Golden State Warriors
Percent Chance: 3.6%
Percent Chance: 3.5%
Percent Chance: 1.7%
Portland Trail Blazers
Percent Chance: 0.8%
Percent Chance: 0.7%
Percent Chance: 0.6%
Percent Chance: 0.5%