Los Angeles Lakers: Are they better than the Clippers past the halfway point?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

The Lakers second flaw

The Lakers are dominant when LeBron James is on the court and below average when he sits. The numbers are damning. The Lakers outscore their opponents by nearly 11 points with LBJ running the show, but when he heads to the bench, opposing squads outscore Los Angeles by two and a half points.

Most experts, including myself, have placed the majority of this problem directly on Rajon Rondo’s shoulders. You’ve heard the arguments. Rondo overdribbles, he hunts for assists, and he’s lazy on defense. It’s all true, but with a caveat. Rajon Rondo is capable of playing beautiful, winning basketball when he’s engaged.

Let’s look at the Lakers recent contest against the Celtics again. Rajon Rondo used to play for the Celtics, and he holds a grudge. Plus, his old teammate, Kevin Garnett, was watching the game from the front row. Rondo was “engaged,” and he went full destructor against Boston. He played impassioned defense, and he kept the ball moving. Rondo played basketball the way he’s capable of, and he finished the game with a +15 net rating, good for second-highest on the team.

We keep screaming for less Rajon Rondo and more Alex Caruso. But is it possible that Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd, and LeBron James (one of the Lakers de facto assistant coaches) know what they’re doing? The Lakers do have a commanding lead in the Western Conference standings despite all the fuss about Rajon. Perhaps it’s okay for an aging Rondo to coast through the regular season.

Nobody has a crystal ball that foretells what will happen tomorrow, but we can look to the past to find cycles that help us predict the future. History tells us that for most of Rajon Rondo’s career, he’s gone half-throttle during the regular season. But when the playoffs start, he shifts into gear and becomes a difference-maker.

Rajon Rondo’s career playoff numbers are impressive. He’s averaging 14 PPG, 9 APG, 6 RPG, and 2 SPG to go along with 6.6 overall value over replacement player rating.

The Lakers nosedive when LeBron’s off the court, and that is a flaw, that could spell doom against the Clippers in the playoffs. Yet I’m going to cheat a little bit and flip the script.

Frank Vogel and the rest of the coaching staff are aware of Rajon Rondo’s recent struggles. Still, they keep turning to him during the regular season to keep him interested. Once the playoffs start, he’s going to show all the doubters what he can do when the games matter. When LeBron rests, the Lakers won’t suddenly dominate the Clippers with Rajon at the helm. But, the Purple and Gold will outscore them.