Rajon Rondo had put together key stretches and strong showings earlier in the season, but his finest effort with the Los Angeles Lakers thus far came in the second half of what turned into a blowout win of the Golden State Warriors on Christmas.
The Lakers lost LeBron James to injury when he slipped while attempting to recover the ball in the third quarter on a semi-transition break. James winced before rising to his feet and playing one possession on defense.
He then summoned to the bench that a timeout was needed, and after attempting to stretch, walked gingerly back to the locker room. James was diagnosed with a groin strain and initially deemed questionable to return. He didn’t step foot back on the court.
So more fell on Rondo, who controlled the pace while creating his own opportunities and baskets for teammates. Rondo attributed the Lakers’ group effort as reason for their thumping of the two-time defending champions, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We played collectively as a team defensively, we were able to get stops, kept our composure when they made their run, and we played for one another.”
The Lakers were ahead by double-digits when James exited in the third quarter, but quickly saw that cut into behind one of the Warriors’ patented flurries. Rondo shared what his message to the team was during the crucial moment:
“We were up eight when they made their first run. I just told guys, along with Tyson, ‘We’re the ones that are up. Keep our composure.’ It’s a game of runs, and they were able to come out hot in the third quarter. We were able to withstand it and got back to our principles of playing defense and getting stops.”
Rondo finished with 15 points off the bench, to go along with 5 rebounds and 10 assists. He nailed a 3-pointer that helped the Lakers maintain some separation, and later found Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart for threes of their own.
Rondo’s play kept him on the court down the stretch of the game in lieu of Lonzo Ball. That’s been a bit of a balancing act for Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who raved about his veteran point guard’s play.