After getting badly outplayed by journeyman Rafer Alston in last season’s Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic, Mo Williams vowed to have a better showing in this year’s playoffs.
Well, it’s already the conference semifinals and the Cavaliers’ so-called All-Star has been MIA so far.
It’s the same old story for the underperforming point guard. He got destroyed by Chicago’s Derrick Rose in the first round, but the Cavaliers still managed to knock off the Bulls in five games. Now, through four games of the Boston-Cleveland series, Williams is getting embarrassed by Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo – and embarrassed might be an understatement.
Rondo is averaging 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 13.0 assists in the conference semifinals, while Williams is averaging 12.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Rondo is shooting 51.7% from the field, while Williams is making just 40% of his shots and a pitiful 15.4% from behind the arc.
Rondo is killing Williams in phases of the game: scoring, defending, setting up teammates and running the offense. If this was a MMA fight, Rondo would have Williams in a deadly submission hold and all Mo could do is tap out.
Williams’ problem begins on the defensive end. He has not been able to keep Rondo out of the paint on dribble penetrations, which has compromised the Cavaliers’ interior defense.
Rondo’s ability to blow by Mo allows Boston to collapse the Cavs defense, which has opened up uncontested 3-point shots from Ray Allen and wide-open jump shots for Kevin Garnett on pick-and-pop plays.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown has tried different strategies to combat Rondo’s relentless attack, using taller guards such as Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon on occasion and even LeBron James has helped out on Rondo and may have to take on the task full time.
When Parker switches to Rondo, Williams is forced to guard Allen, which is no picnic either. Allen puts Williams through a gauntlet of screens and, when the Cavs are late on close-outs, the Celtics’ shooting guard has punished them with dagger threes.
So, how can the Cavs counter Rondo? James believes Williams needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end and make Rondo defend him, which is easier said than done because Williams has been on an extended shooting slump since hurting his left shoulder midway through the season.
“We need to do better screening, allowing Mo to come off against bigs,” James said. “Either Rondo or Tony Allen stayed on his hip all night, so we have to find a way to get Mo free because he’s really good off the dribble. He’s also good coming off screens.”
James added: “We all play well as a team when Mo plays well. And I know he’s looking forward to the next game.”
James said that after Game 2 and the Cavs are still waiting for Williams to make some kind of a dent in the playoffs and string together two good quarters.