The Miami Heat find themselves in a win or go home situation versus the Philadelphia 76ers as Australian transplant Ben Simmons, who likes the Florida weather, takes advantage of a Heat team lacking in basketball smarts.
Ben and his family chose Montverde Academy, a small boarding school outside of Orlando with a considerable amount of international students and strong academic support.
Simmons had befriended Montverde stars Kasey Hill and Dakari Johnson at Adidas Nations and the U17 World Championships the previous summer, liked the idea of Florida weather and embraced the challenge of American ball.
After Game 1, [Anthony] Davis spoke about Rondo and his preparedness being a game-changer, “He’s got the mindset, he was up all night watching film. Even when they were calling plays out tonight, he was telling us what it was but our version before they even got a chance to run it so he’s definitely locked in.”
Rondo not only knows the Pelicans game book, he memorized the Trail Blazers’ sets as well to stifle Portland’s offense.
With 8:01 remaining in the third quarter of Game 2, [Damian] Lillard raised his right arm to call a play. Rondo, who was guarding CJ McCollum, the ball handler, glanced over to catch the signal, then brought his attention back to his assignment. He waited until Lillard was done, then turned his head toward his teammates, flashing two fingers in the air. He motioned [Jrue] Holiday to take the switch onto McCollum on what appeared to be a screen-and-roll action between C.J. and Ed Davis. Rondo was dragged out of the play by Evan Turner, but he’d already mapped out the rest of the sequence.
The NBA has plenty of 6’10”, 230 lb athletes, but what separates the elite professionals from the post AAU players lies in knowing the weaknesses of the guys they’re competing against.
Hassan Whiteside has more physical tools than Kelly Olynyk, but Olynyk knows the mental part of the game on a completely different level, to the point where he’s very patient with the basketball in his hands, as he probes for mistakes by his defender(s).
Goran Dragic often bullheadedly puts his head down determined to score at the rim, while Rondo keeps his head up all the time to put his teammates in scoring position.
Only one game separated the 48-34 Pelicans from the 49-33 Trail Blazers, but a series sweep by New Orleans wasn’t in the cards before the NBA playoffs began.
For the Heat to be outsmarted by a 21 year-old rookie, who is younger and with less professional experience than anyone not named Bam Adebayo in Miami, speaks volumes about the level of basketball awareness, or lack thereof, by the Heat team.
Both Simmons and Rondo separate the men from boys against the teams they face on the basketball court by using their basketball smarts.
Lifting weights and low body fat create a better conditioned athlete, but as Rondo showed against Portland, in today’s NBA knowledge wins out over brute power after the regular season ends.
The 76ers picked apart the Heat the fourth quarters: can Miami think ahead of the curve versus Philadelphia by knowing the 76ers sets in real-time, like Rondo knew the Trail Blazers plays in his mind, and avoid going on vacation after the game?