2010 NBA Finals, Game 4: Is Kobe Bryant on Rajon Rondo a Series Changer?

It was the first quarter of Game Three of the NBA Finals and the hometown Boston Celtics had the home crowd shouting with boundless glee.

The Celtics had jumped out to a lead behind the effective field generalship of point guard Rajon Rondo.

The speedy Kentuckian had hurt the Los Angeles Lakers in two key areas, by running a skilled transition offense and taking the ball to the hoop for lay-ups.

Wily Laker coach Phil Jackson knows when a timeout is needed, and this was one of those occasions.

After the teams came back on the floor, the Celtic momentum was checked and the visitors swung things back in their direction for a 91-84 victory.

They assumed a 2-1 edge and regained the home court advantage that had been taken from them in Game Two in Los Angeles, when they were overcome by the superb point guard craftsmanship of Rondo and a red hot shooting night by Ray Allen.

So what made the difference in Game Three?

During that crucial timeout Jackson made a switch. Kobe Bryant began guarding Rondo, and his freedom of movement promptly dissipated.

Bryant stood back at a distance from Rondo not long after he passed midcourt. There were two good reasons for that move.

For one thing, Bryant gave himself time and space to check Rondo off from either speeding by him or whipping a pass to generate a pick and roll to the hoop.

For another, Bryant sought to encourage Rondo to shoot from long range, not one of his specialties.

Note how much room defenders give Ron Artest at long range, playing percentages in concluding that he cannot beat them that way. This is how Phil Jackson played Artest when he was with Houston.

During a Game Three early timeout, Celtic mentor Doc Rivers was heard saying, “I like the pace.” He knows he needs a solid transition game to beat the Lakers.

As Rivers himself has frequen...

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