On Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the No. 7 seed Oklahoma City Thunder without their two leading scorers, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, they were also missing their best and most consistent player in James, the league’s leader in assists.
With James sidelined, head coach Frank Vogel inserted Rajon Rondo into the starting lineup of favor of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso with the hope that the 13-year veteran would help fill the playmaking void left by James. To Rondo’s credit, he did that and more.
In 32:54 against the Thunder, Rondo tallied a season-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds (also a season-high), 8 assists and just 2 turnovers. He was incredible, and after the game, Vogel told reporters that he thought Rondo’s vintage performance had a lot to with the fact that he played a little bit faster (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I said it earlier this season, Rajon’s impact is measured in swag. He just brings a confidence to the group. Barking out coverages on the defensive end and controlling the action offensively … The biggest uptick the past few games with him is we’re trying to encourage him to play with offensive pace. When he’s doing that, and making those decisions in the open court, we’re pretty tough to stop.”
The term “offensive pace” can be interpreted in two different ways, and both of them would be appropriate descriptions of the way Rondo played against the Thunder
Yes, Rondo moved faster with the ball and attacked the rim with more ferocity than usual, but his decision-making was also a lot quicker than it has been this season. Instead of dribbling the ball until he found a shot he liked, Rondo let other players like Kyle Kuzma handle the ball and get involved. As a result, there was less ball-watching and more ball movement.
Going forward, that will be the key to the second unit holding leads when one or both of James and Davis are resting — something that has been a season-long problem.