The Knicks face a pivotal test tonight against the Celtics, needing a quality win badly after playing decidedly mediocre ball over the last 15 games or so. Ian Begley at ESPN New York rightly points out the key will be containing Rajon Rondo who has torched the team in recent games.
Mike Woodson would be wise to stick Iman Shumpert on Rondo. But Shumpert is on a 20-minute limit so what happens when Shumpert’s on the bench?
Do you put Kidd on Rondo? J.R. Smith? James White? Ronnie Brewer?
Woodson needs to find the right combination to slow Rondo, who, along with Paul Pierce, has turned into a Knicks killer.
Rondo is averaging 19.3 points and 13.1 assists in his last seven games versus New York, including the playoffs.
There’s obviously not a real great answer to this as Rondo is just a really good player, and has improved his jump shot a bit over the years so that’s it not quite as simple as just sagging off him and daring him to shoot. New York has struggled to contain dribble penetration most of the season, so it’s not surprising that Rondo has posed a formidable task. With Shumpert still on the minutes limit, there’s obviously no one guy you just put on Rondo and say, “Hey, you stop him,” particularly if you’re going to ask Jason Kidd to do it at this point in his career, as I’m sure he’d say, “I’d love to, but, you know.”
I think it’s likely going to take some combination of all the guys Begley listed, along with help from Chandler protecting the rim, to just try and make sure Rondo’s forays into the paint don’t lead to total discombobulation. The Knicks, as we’ve all noticed, tend to switch an awful lot anyway, so they haven’t asked their guards to just straight up lock someone down all that much as it is.
All of which is to say, that having Shump back should be helpful, but when he’s forced to the bench, containing Rondo will certainly be a challenge.