I would like to start this off by saying I know absolutely nothing about basketball. The Bulls being up 2-0 on the Boston Celtics after their 111-97 win Tuesday night, confirms this.
When we take a step back and look at the Bulls run to end the season, from being five games under .500 to finishing with a 41-41 record, it all started with Fred Hoiberg putting Rajon Rondo back in the starting lineup. At the time I didn’t agree with the move, mostly because of the loathing I have for John Paxson and Gar Forman for signing him in the first place.
But shit, you have to give credit where it’s due. Rondo helped propel the Bulls into the playoffs and now he’s one of the main reasons for them heading back to Chicago up 2-0 on the number one seed. Tuesday night, Rondo was absolutely superb.
Rondo says Playoff Rondo is a product of extra rest and preparation in the playoffs. #Bulls— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 19, 2017
Tuesday night Rondo finished game two just short of a triple-double, with 11 points, nine rebounds and 14 assist and a team-high +24. Simply put, Rondo orchestrated the Bulls offense beautifully, from in transition to the half-court. For a team that has struggled immensely throughout the regular season at producing points, were generating efficient looks in game two.
Right from the tip, and what’s been a common trait of Rondo, he pushed the pace offensively off of misses by Boston. It was very apparent that Boston’s transition defense just wasn’t prepared to run with Chicago, who might I say, looked young and athletic? Ugh, I just shuddered.
But seriously, off of misses and turnovers, the Bulls dominated the Celtics in transition and that was because of Rondo pushing the pace, and his teammates getting out and running the floor with him.
In the halfcourt, where the Bulls have been known to stagnant offensively, were able to keep the ball moving; side-to-side and getting into the lane. Throughout the game Rondo was directing traffic, and was especially stellar in penetrating Boston’s defense and finding the open man as it collapsed. And with that, Rondo was being aggressive in looking for his own shot as well. When that happens, it can completely alter the dynamic of the game, which is what happened Tuesday night.
At some point this season, I feel very confident in saying that anyone covering the Bulls wrote about Rondo’s atrocious defense. And it was well-deserved, and documented at those points. However...Rondo is fully engaged on defense right now in a way we haven’t seen since his peak Boston days.
The Bulls have the Celtics scouted extremely well, as pointed out by Stephen Noh of The Athletic. That was even more apparent during game two. During the game, specifically in the second half, you could hear Rondo over the broadcast talking on the defensive end; communicating sets, appropriate switches and rotations.
Just as he did on the offensive end, Rondo set the tone for the Bulls on the opposite end as well. Sure, there were mistakes throughout, but for the most part rotations were on point, and guys were flying to the ball, as evidenced by the 12 steals (five from Rondo) from the Bulls, and 16 turnovers they forced. This as a result, helped ignite their transition offense, which led to 23 points off turnovers.
Rajon Rondo has had quite the up and down season, and early in the year it looked like it may be his last season in the league. But through it all he’s stayed professional (for a variety of reasons) and has been prepared when called upon. At the end of the season when the Bulls needed a playoff push, his play was a key part of that happening. And now, facing the number one seed in the East up 2-0, he’s continued to rise his level of play, and is on the verge of reviving his career.