The Detroit Pistons founded the “Jordan Rules” in the late 1980s and early ’90s, while former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson came up with the “Hack-a-Shaq” more than a decade ago. Now, the Miami Heat are employing the “Rondo Rule” in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
On a night when Rajon Rondo carved his name in NBA history, the Boston Celtics head back home two games away from being sent fishing. Rondo put on a performances for the ages: 44 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists in 53 minutes. But in the end, the Heat won in overtime, 115-111.
As impressive as Rondo’s game was on Wednesday night it is by design. The Heat are banking on the fact that Rondo can’t beat them by himself. He almost did! But at the end of the day the Heat are up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series are in great position to advance to the NBA Finals for the third time in the last seven years.
Miami’s defensive game plan is simple: Make Rondo shoot the ball. Call it the “Rondo Rule.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had high praise for the Celtics guard prior to the start of the series, wants his players to eliminate Boston’s ball movement, and one way to curb that is by making Rondo into a scorer. It’s a bit a gamble on Spoelstra’s part because there is the danger of Rondo going off for a career-high 44 points — which he did in Game 2 — but so far the scheme has minimized the impact of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
“We tried almost everything with him,” Spoelstra said of Rondo, who scored all 12 of Boston’s points in the overtime period, including back-to-back 3-pointers that made the Heat sweat out the final minute.
” The conventional wisdom of (Rondo’s) gotta beat you with the score, with the jump shot, by not getting all the other guys going. They only had 15 assists, and you wouldn’t think he’d have that kind of monster game,” Spoelstra said.
What Rondo did in Game 2 was mind-boggling given his history of not being able to hit that open jumper when teams sink under the screen. But Rivers said Rondo made the Heat pay time and time again, and he plans to encourage his point guard to keep attacking.
“They were going under (the screens) and I thought what Rondo did was he was going to the elbow and he just took the shots,” Rivers said. “He has to keep doing that, but we have to get more guys involved as well.”
Rondo nearly pulled out the win on his own, but he knows a victory would have been sweeter. “It’s all irrelevant now because we lost,” said Rondo, who showed remarkable stamina by playing the whole game.
“What it speaks to is his competitiveness. He’s a competitor, he’s a basketball player,” Spoelstra said. “Whatever that team needs he’s going to do. Somehow we were able to withstand his incredible game.”
Going into the series, all the Heat talked about was how they must contain Rondo because, as much as the Celtics still rely on the Big Three, the ball is almost in Rondo’s hands almost 90% of the time and the offense clicks when he’s heavily engaged and distributing the ball.
Rivers can’t fault his point guard for taking the majority of the shots, as long as he makes them of course. But Rivers knows he can’t win this series if Rondo is passive so he has to ride the hot hand for as long as he can and hope that the Heat will change their defense and start trapping Rondo, giving more opportunities for KG, Pierce, and Allen.
“[Rondo] was absolutely phenomenal. Put his whole team at times on his shoulders,” Rivers said. “It’s tough to have him play that way and not win the game, honestly. He did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.
“He was playing at a pretty good pace and we just rode him.”