There are two equally important game initiatives the Suns must accomplish on Wednesday in order to have a good chance of beating the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.
For starters, the Suns’ guards MUST slow down Rajon Rondo in the open court.
Rondo has become an elite point guard in this league and is especially skilled at pushing the ball and either getting to the basket for a layup or a trip to the line or driving and dishing to Kevin Garnett or Kendrick Perkins for a dunk, short jumper or once again a trip to the charity stripe.
If the Suns’ guards can slide their feet and get in front of Rondo in the open floor, he will either have to settle for 12- to 15-footers on the break or dish to Ray Allen, Eddie House or a trailing Rasheed Wallace for threes or medium-range jump shots in transition or the half court.
That’s a lesson the Suns should have learned after Rondo’s dominant 32-point, 10-assist six-rebound performance last season in Phoenix that resulted in a 20-point Boston victory.
Did I mention this victory was accomplished without Kevin Garnett in the lineup?
It is also imperative for Phoenix to play excellent help defense, getting the ball out of Rondo’s hands both on the break and in the half court.
Rondo is extremely quick, but withand Leandro Barbosa back in the lineup, the Suns have a few quick guards they can throw at Rondo on the defensive end.
Now, you might think it is crazy to leave a Hall of Fame bound guard like Ray Allen for an open three in order to stop Rondo but let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
If you take out the contributions of Paul Pierce, who will be out of the lineup Wednesday with an infected right knee, the Celtics would have the league’s WORST team shooting percentage from behind the arc.
Ray Allen himself is suffering through the worst three-point shooting season of his career at 35.4 percent.
Rasheed Wallace is far worse, connecting on a beyond anemic 28.9 percent from three, his worst clip since integrating the three ball into his repertoire earlier this decade.
This season he is hoisting just under five a game, which is great for opposing teams because not only does this more often than not mean a defensive rebound, it also limits the post-up opportunities for someone Hubie Brown calls one of the best post players in the game.
In fact, after winning nine road contests in a row, the C’s lost to both the Clippers and Warriors in their past two road games, losses in which Allen and Wallace were a combined 4-for-21 from long range (19.1 percent).
To quote the movie Knocked Up: “I mean, I’m not a mathematician.” But I feel pretty confident in saying that’s not what Doc had in mind when Boston acquired Wallace from Detroit.
Rasheed and Ray’s long misses lead to long rebounds, which will let the Suns run and prevent the league’s toughest defensive team (yielding 96.3 points per 100 possessions) from grinding Phoenix out in the half court.