Celts Offense Sputters Sans Rondo
Boston point guard’s absence is felt against Raptors.
by Ryan McNeill | @ryanmcneill
You would think a player fresh off his first start of the season and who scored a team-high 22 points would be able to at least crack a smile after the game, right?
Not if you’re Nate Robinson and you’re frustrated with your team blowing the lead against Toronto in the final seconds of the game. His face was covered with a scowl the entire time he talked with the media following the game and it became clear he wasn’t willing to brag about any personal accomplishments.
For him, the loss to the Raptors clearly stung too much.
Despite falling behind double-digits in the third quarter, Boston was able to claw back and gain the lead late in the fourth quarter due to a 19-4 rally. However, this late surge wasn’t enough because a turnover by Ray Allen in the final seconds of regulation led to Amir Johnson making two big free throws to secure the win.
The loss was tough to swallow for the entire team, and Paul Pierce spent a ton of time after the game at his locker staring across the room locked in thought trying to figure out what went wrong. Kevin Garnett’s mood wasn’t much better and he left the locker room cursing about defense in a rant directed a no one in particular.
So, what went wrong? Even though Boston’s offense managed to score 101 points while shooting 47.9 percent from the field, it was a case of players having to fill roles they aren’t normally used to having to fill.
All of this stems from the fact the glue of their offense, Rajon Rondo, was out with an injury to his hamstring. Boston knew with him sitting out against Toronto their offense would need to change and adapt but they also had to assume their starting point guard would get more than two assists.
Sure, Robinson, scored 16 of Boston’s first 31 points, but it was during that stretch in the first quarter where he picked up 2 assists. As great as his scoring spark was to start the game, the problem is Robinson failed to dish out another dime over the final three quarters of the game.
“I wasn’t concerned with Nate running the team, I was concerned with Nate trying to run the team and not being an aggressive scorer,” Rivers told me after the game. “I just told him to be aggressive and if you’re open shoot the ball because that’s what you do. Everyone else will have to figure it out.”
That kind of thinking was evident after the game when Robinson admitted he didn’t want to get in the way while playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
“For the most part I just didn’t want to step on their toes,” Robinson admitted to the media after the game. “The ball is going to find guys and it found me early. I just took advantage of that and tried to take the best quality shots that I could. Guys were telling me to be aggressive so I was.”
It’s one thing to be aggressive when you’re coming off the bench, it’s another when you’re trying to replace an All-Star caliber point guard who is currently leading the NBA assists.
One of the reasons why Allen, Pierce and Garnett are so effective is because Rondo knows where and when to get each of them their touches. He doesn’t come into the game looking to score; his role is to get his teammates open looks and help them find their grooves.
“Our offense changes because Nate (Robinson) is more of a scoring guard because he spaces the floor for us,” Rivers admitted to me after the game.
However, just as quickly as Rivers conceded Robinson isn’t the kind of guard who look for open teammates, he just as quickly stuck up for the fact the team shot 47.9 percent from the floor while scoring 101 points.
“Listen, we scored 101 points and we’re a good defensive team,” Rivers tried to explain to the media. “Scoring wasn’t our issue, we just scored in a different way today. We were a low assist team today—I think we had 16 or 17 and for us that is low—but we still scored a lot of points. We knew coming into the game we had to create scoring opportunities in a different way and we did so I was happy with that.”
Rivers can try to talk up the play of Robinson and his offense all he wants but the fact remains is that without Rondo on the court it thrust other players into roles they weren’t used to or utlimately comfortable with.
This isn’t meant to be a knock against Robinson—as he had one heck of a game—but the reality is by not having their normal floor general out ther,e it’s clear a lot of players were taken out of their normal roles and comfort zones.
It appears as though it will take Rondo’s return to the court to get his teammates and fans of the Celtics smiling again.