On Sunday, the Los Angles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 105-103, giving them a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers obviously rely on their stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis to do most of the heavy lifting, but the 2020 NBA playoffs have seen the resurgence of veteran point guard Rajon Rondo – and the Lakers have needed him.
Playoff Rondo has returned and become an important contributor to the Lakers on both sides of the floor.
Since Rondo’s return to the Lakers he’s split the playmaking load down the middle with James. In the Lakers’ last seven playoff games, both James and Rondo have averaged 7.6 assists per game. Rondo has been great finding cutters, feeding open shooters and hitting the Lakers’ big men on lobs to the basket. Making smart, timely plays has been a staple of Rondo’s career and it has continued in this years playoff run.
— Steve Finamore (@CoachFinamore) September 21, 2020
In the play above, Jamal Murray falls down below the basket after making a layup to give the Nuggets their first lead since the first quarter. Rondo realizes that Murray is down and quickly inbounds the ball, creating a fast break for the Lakers where he simply runs down and delivers a pass to a wide open Danny Green for an easy 3-pointer to give the Lakers the lead back.
On the following possession, Rondo would hit a step-back 3-pointer to put the Lakers up five. Sequences like this are a testament to Rondo’s contributions, understanding the time, score and situation. The Lakers losing the lead down the stretch of the game with James on the bench could have been catastrophic, but Rondo’s play helped keep the momentum on the side of the Lakers.
Rondo’s shooting has also drastically improved in the playoffs, on 21 attempts he has shot an incredible 47.6 percent from behind the 3-point line. Defensively, Rondo is as locked in as he has been in years, leading the Lakers in steals and disrupting opponents passing lanes with deflections.
In game 2 against the Nuggets, it seemed Denver would come out with the victory after going up one after Jokic hit a shot at the rim over Davis. After the play, Davis was upset with himself for his defense on Jokic, but said after the game Rondo told him “That’s all right, he scored on you. Now you go get it back.”
The following possession, Denver would knock the ball out of bounds with just 2.1 seconds remaining, giving the Lakers just enough time for one shot to win the game. At that time, Rondo was on the bench and asked his coach Frank Vogel if he wanted him to enter the game as the inbounds passer.
Vogel confirmed to Rondo that he wanted him to throw the pass and the following play ensued.
Game 3 ⏩ Tuesday, 9 PM ET, TNT pic.twitter.com/4GBaxeVBvP
— NBA (@NBA) September 21, 2020
On the play, Rondo made a perfect bounce pass to Davis. All Davis had to do was get to his spot, catch the ball and shoot what he would later call “the biggest shot of my career” to win the game for the Lakers.
Rondo may not be the biggest star on the Lakers, but his playmaking and leadership may be the final touch of what this team needs to bring the Lakers their 17th championship. With a title this year, the Lakers would would tie Rondo’s former team, the Boston Celtics, for the most all-time championships won by an NBA franchise.
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