As impressive as Los Angeles Laker stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis have been this season, even the best playoff teams need a reliable, third scoring options who has the experience to not be afraid these big games. Enter Playoff Rajon Rondo… in a minute.
A few optimistic Laker fans thought this third star could have been Kyle Kuzma. A couple of delusional fans thought that it could have been Alex Caruso.
But thankfully for the sanity of Laker fans, it looks like the Lakers have found that third star with a healthy Rajon Rondo helping Los Angeles to a Game 3 win Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets.
In the heroic return of ‘Playoff Rondo’, the veteran point guard tallied 21 points and 9 assists, including 15 points and five assists in the second half as the Lakers limited Houston to just 38 second-half points.
Rondo’s quality performance was the reason why the Lakers won the game, giving them a pivotal 2-1 lead over Houston and putting the Lakers 2 games away from their first conference finals appearance in a decade.
Things were looking grim in the first half, as even though the Lakers kept the game close, James Harden and Russell Westbrook were getting any shot they wanted while the Lakers’ offense was looking stagnant yet again. Had Rajon Rondo not shown up for the second half and the Rockets could have secured the victory, being in that 2-1 hole would have been an uphill battle for a Lakers team with a lot of panicky, unproven role players.
Rondo’s play and high basketball I.Q. helped the Lakers around him, giving confidence to Kuzma, Caruso and other role players to help establish the 1-seed’s true dominance.
With the games continuing to intensify inside the NBA bubble, Rondo is playing his best basketball just as the Lakers need it. Davis was complementary of Rondo’s performance last night, claiming that Rondo’s court vision and veteran savvy helped lead the Lakers to victory.
“’Playoff Rondo’ is real,” Davis said via Michael C. Wright of NBA.com. “His intensity picks up. He wants to guard the best perimeter guy. He wants to facilitate on the floor. He’s shooting the ball very well, making the right passes. We’ve got the two best I.Q. guys in the game with him and LeBron on the floor at the same time, which is tough for defenses. So, ‘Playoff Rondo’ is real, and he showed up tonight.”
That sharp playoff I.Q. comes from years of playoff experience, with Rajon Rondo starting in 105 of 108 playoff games he’s appeared in and posting 42 double-doubles and 10 triple doubles in those starts.
It feels like decades ago that Rondo was the young point guard dishing dimes to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the late 2000’s, but those years in Bean Town helped eradicate any fear the point guard had as he established himself as a bulldog on both sides of the floor.
That 100+ games of playoff experience from Rondo will end up being crucial to Los Angeles’ Playoff success, because with James, Davis and Rondo, that gives the Lakers three multiple-time All-Stars who aren’t afraid of anybody, play excellent defense, and have elite offensive vision.
These last three games of the Rockets’ series has been the first time in Playoff Rondo’s career that he has come off the bench, but it may be wise for the Lakers to keep him their to lead the second unit and play the alpha role while on Lebron and/or Davis get some coveted rest.
Rajon Rondo doesn’t need to drop 20 every night for the Lakers to keep being successful, but if he can stay consistent on defense and continue to add more wrinkles to the Lakers’ offensive gameplan, Los Angeles retakes their throne as the title favorite in the bubble.