Going Small Key For OKC & Golden State?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – With each of the four conference semifinals tied at 1-1 (for the first time since this round went to seven games in 1968), it’s a great time to mine the lineup data provided by NBA.com/Stats for trends, anomalies, and whatever information might be useful … or at least interesting.

The eight teams remaining have only played between six and nine games, so we’re not looking at very big sample sizes here. But small sample sizes are all you have to go on in the playoffs. Decisions have to be made on how players or player combinations have played in that series and against that opponent. Even if you include numbers against the opponent in the regular season, that’s at most four additional games of data.

We’ve already seen some of these teams change lineups mid-series. And sometimes, like when the Dallas Mavericks decided to start J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the 2011 Finals, a lineup change can make a big difference.

So, as we take our first day off of the playoffs, here are some notes from 53 games worth of postseason lineup data…

The drop-off in Indiana
The most-used lineup of the playoffs should be no surprise. The Pacers’ starting lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert have been getting it done on both ends of the floor and were a terrific lineup in the regular season as well. Though Indy ranked 19th defensively overall, this lineup scored at a rate that would have ranked fourth, playing the second-most minutes of any lineup in the league.

It was a plus-48 in the first round and a plus-5 in both Games 1 and 2 of the conference semifinals. The problem, of course, is that the Indiana bench stinks. In 216 minutes, all other Pacers lineups have scored 93.1 points per 100 possessions and allowed 105.8, for a NetRtg of -12.7 in the postseason.

Indy coach Frank Vogel talks often about his emphasis on defending without fouling. That’s key to not only keep the Pacers’ opponents off the line, but also to keep their starters on the floor.

Over their eight playoff games, every Pacer starter has a positive plus-minus and every sub has a negative one. So maybe the Pacers can benefit as much from three days off as the banged up Knicks can, with an ability to use their rested starters for heavy minutes in Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).

Time for OKC to go small?
Setting a minimum of 35 minutes played, the best lineup (offensively, *defensively and overall) of the postseason has been Oklahoma City’s small lineup of Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison. This unit of two point guards, two scoring wings, and a versatile big has outscored its opponents by 46.5 points per 100 possessions and had its best run in Game 6 in Houston, outscoring the Rockets 31-20 in 14 minutes. It was a plus-7 in seven minutes of Game 1 against the bigger Grizzlies, but Scott Brooks didn’t use it at all in Game 2 on Tuesday.

If you remove Nick Collison and just look at the four smalls together, they’ve been just as effective (OffRtg: 130.2, DefRtg: 80.9, NetRtg: +49.3) in a slightly larger sample of 51 minutes (43 against Houston and eight against Memphis).

With Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder have other small-lineup options. And thus far against the Grizzlies, they’re a plus-13 in 14 minutes playing small. They’re a minus-17 in 82 minutes playing big and their starting lineup (Jackson, Sefolosha, Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins has shot a brutal 13-for-47 (28 percent) in its 28 minutes together.

That, of course, will be something to keep an eye on as the series heads to Memphis for Saturday’s Game 3 (5 p.m. ET, ESPN).

*The best defensive lineup with a minimum of 35 minutes played was actually the Thunder’s original starting lineup, which allowed the Rockets to score just 73.1 points per 100 possessions in the first two games of the first round. But Russell Westbrook‘s injury puts that lineup out of commission.

Small works in the other West series too
Both Gregg Popovich and Mark Jackson changed their starting lineups for Game 2 in San Antonio on Wednesday, moves that worked out better for the Warriors. Their (small) lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut is a plus-17 in the series (plus-12 in Game 2), the second-best mark of the conference semifinals thus far.

It was a mini lineup of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw that pulled off the Spurs’ amazing comeback on Monday, racking up a plus-13 in 10 minutes over the fourth quarter and two overtimes. With Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter healthy, Popovich didn’t use that lineup at all in Game 2.

Supersubs in Chicago
Obviously, Wednesday’s blowout in Miami makes for some funky lineup numbers in that series, but the Bulls do have a lineup – Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah – that’s a plus-14 over the two games (plus-13 in 16 minutes in Game 1 and plus-1 in three minutes in Game 2). It was a plus-7 in 21 minutes in the first round and was a strong plus-20.3 points per 100 possessions in 129 minutes in the regular season. If Kirk Hinrich and/or Luol Deng return for Game 3 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), it will be interesting to see how much time that lineup plays together going forward.

A change of fortune in Miami
The Heat had a killer lineup – Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh – that Erik Spoelstra used rather sparingly (only 112 minutes), but outscored its opponents by 30.3 points per 100 possessions in the regular season. That lineup was a plus-12 in 10 minutes in the first round against Milwaukee, but is a minus-13 in six minutes in the conference semis, having allowed the Bulls to shoot 6-for-9 (3-for-3 from 3-point range) in the closing minutes of Game 1.

Offensive struggles in New York
The best offensive lineup in the regular season (minimum 200 minutes) was the Knicks’ lineup of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, which scored 119.3 points per 100 possessions in 269 minutes together. With Kidd, Smith and Anthony all struggling, that unit has scored just 86.6 points per 100 possessions in 18 playoff minutes, and has been even worse defensively.

17 Comments

  1. Peter Baron says:

    Warriors win tonight and on Sunday.

    Go Warriors!!

  2. trinifan says:

    Not to knock George Karl, because I think he’s been doing a great job, but I at least though Mike Woodson deserved Coach of the year more than him.

  3. WakeUpMartin says:

    Come on Kevin Martin!!!!! WAKE UP!!! don’t be a Lamar Odom: The most consistent player in being inconsistent!

  4. Trek Knicks says:

    Warns mike wodson to stop inventing..
    copeland need to play more. Kidd is a legend but forget 3 shots!
    GO KNICKS We are champions . it’s time ! Go Swish, go 7 shirt! come on NY

  5. Mike says:

    Curry and Thompson are the best of the best. I’m not a GS fan but I love to watch this team. Watch out LB and Wade

    • Gary Payton says:

      Memphis and Golden State out of the West! Healthy, young and motivated! Got to the love playoffs!

  6. Patty says:

    MARK JACKSON KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH HIS TEAM. MARK JACKSON WAS CHEATED OUT OF BEING THE COACH OF THE YEAR.

    MOST PEOPLE KNOW GEORGE KARL WAS NOT DESERVING OF THIS AWARD.

    • BJ says:

      I agree, Mark Jackson is a great coach. he has been completely over looked taking his team this far. I like this GSW team, I hope they make it to the finals.

    • bigwes95 says:

      George Karl got an overwhelming win if what I heard on TNT by the guys was right, which they usually are about that stuff. and have you seen his speech? all he does is talk about how people helped him and taught him, he is definitely deserving compared to a coach like Mark Jackson, who guaranteed a playoff birth two years ago and failed. it’s not always about the coaching, it’s how you live on AND off the court. why do you think people are still hating LeBron for leaving Cleveland even though he’s the best basketball player? because of what he did off the court. give me a coach who’s mature and gives everyone else credit before himself, but more importantly, can win consistently and get through a bad streak without getting down on themselves and everyone else. That’s why Karl is better than Jackson, at least for now, but more likely always will be better than Jackson.

    • Simon says:

      shut up tool. Geprge Karl did an amazing job with Denver this year. You would be foolish to think otherwise

    • Mike says:

      Who are the “Most People”? you, your friends and who else? He deserve that award long time ago my friends……

  7. max says:

    GSW”s team believe in their Coach and they are young and easy to be impressed.Curry is a great player, however, like R. Westbrook he is so sold on himself. It has proven when many great player start playing with the mentality that they are the very best and should be “bowed down to”, well they will go down hill. The actions for Curry is so like those of Westbrook, look how great I am. BAD vibes. Rolling eyes and twisting across the court like they are a primal donna will not cut it in the NBA very long. New Players emerge each season and soon Curry will see himself like D.Ellis SHIPPED! Watch the body action of Curry–he is just full of “HOT AIR” yes for now he is an outstanding player, but I have seen so many start out like Curry who start believing that they must be the very best. So sad. Now LBJ never fell for the Media hype and is still clicking as the best. But many young “kids” just cannot handle reading and hearing how great they are. Short careers await those type of young players. Surely Curry’s Dad can show this “wild colt” just what can happen if he gets too full of his own greatness~!!

    • eris says:

      you have got to be trolling to say Stephen Curry comes off more egotistical than LeBron James

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      An EGO is something to behold in the NBA game, not something to get rid off.

      Lebron has learned control but don’t mess it up, Lebron has both pride and EGO, he wants to be acclaimed as the best, that’s why he tries so hard on a team when really he could dial it down a notch.

      It is better for the player, and the player’s team, to think of themselves as the best. To want to be the best.
      MJ has the biggest ego of all time. Kobe as well, don’t think Kobe doesn’t get worked up when he hears people say that someone other than Jordan is better than him. Hell, Kobe probably still flinches when he hears that he will never be better than Jordan.

      Ego is a good thing, and watching curry aim for the stars is a thing to behold.

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      And by the way, Curry’s ego should be applauded twice. The way they robbed him from being an all-star this year…Ridiculous. It’s actually good to see that it pushed him to work harder instead of taking away any of his confidence.

    • PetrGSW says:

      Wow, you really have no idea what you’re talking about “max” !
      You may have a point with Westbrook, his ego sometimes has him taking terrible shots and not sharing the ball, but other than that you’re about as wrong as possible. First of all, have you ever seen/heard Steph Curry talk? That guy is so humble that it’s almost bad for him as a basketball player. He got more confident now that he’s so hot, but still. Second “LBJ never fell for the Media hype” REALLY??? Have you been following basketball at all for the last three years? Not hating on Lebron, but cmmon, even his biggest fans know that hes got a huge ego, and thats fine as long as it doesn’t affect him on the court like Russel sometimes. And last D. Ellis (wich somhow in your head is a short for Monta Ellis) was traded because he just didnt fit in with Curry(both being rather small and offensive minded), Jackson saw the potencial in Thompson, and GS needed someone like Bogut to lock down the paint and be a deffensive anchor for Years!!! Please keep your stupid, unknowledgable comments to yourself!