The 29-44 Sacramento Kings have been inconsistent at best this season, but their talent was on full display Sunday during a 133-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Sleep Train Arena. It probably didn’t hurt that point guard Rajon Rondo had some extra motivation against his former team.
Rondo took delight in handing the Mavericks a crucial blow in their chase for a postseason spot in comments he made after the game, per James Ham of CSNBayArea.com: “Yeah, I want them to get their plane ticket as soon as we get ours. So anytime we can help, that’s what I try to get these guys to focus on—if we’re not going to make the playoffs, then let’s help some of these guys go home with us.”
Rondo posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists and spearheaded an offensive effort from the point guard spot that saw eight different Kings score in double figures. His performance was right in line with his season averages of 11.8 points and a league-leading 11.7 assists per night.
Those totals are a far cry from the 46 games he played for the Mavericks in 2014-15 when he scored 9.3 points and dished out 6.5 assists a game. The lack of production was only a small part of the Rondo narrative in Dallas, which is why his postgame comments on Sunday stand out.
The Mavericks acquired Rondo via trade in December 2014 from the Boston Celtics, but Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reported the point guard and head coach Rick Carlisle “clashed repeatedly” before the ball-handler was benched in Game 2 of the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Houston Rockets.
MacMahon noted Rondo—who was also suspended in February of the same season for a separate blowup with Carlisle—“left the team for good the next day, purportedly due to a previously undisclosed back injury.”
Rondo already made headlines involving the Mavericks earlier this season when he appeared to make a kicking motion toward opposing point guard Deron Williams from the bench during Sacramento’s 117-116 loss on Jan. 5. Sam Amick of USA Today reported the league decided not to suspend Rondo for his actions.
Despite Rondo’s checkered history with Dallas, Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk praised him for using the chance to knock the Mavericks down in the postseason race as motivation on Sunday: “If that’s the mindset Rondo needs to play his best, more power to him. This only helps him help his team more.”
As for those nosediving Mavericks, they are a dismal 2-10 in their last 12 games heading into Monday night’s showdown with the Denver Nuggets. What’s more, the team's third-leading scorer, Chandler Parsons, is out for the season with injury.
Here is a look at their precarious position in the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race heading into Monday’s league-wide action:
|Western Conference Playoff Picture|
|Seed||Team||Record||Games Back of No. 8 Seed|
|6||Portland Trail Blazers||38-36||—|
The one silver lining for Dallas is the fact Monday's game against the Nuggets kicked off an upcoming stretch where four of the next five opponents are under .500. Still, Dallas is also under .500 and continues to lose ground in the postseason chase.
If things don’t turn around quickly for the Mavericks, they will be watching the playoffs from home—just like Rondo wants.