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The Playoff Shift: Minutes, Usage & Production

 

One of the nice things about the languidly-paced playoff schedule is that it allows Doc Rivers to accentuate Boston’s positives (the starters) and mitigate, to an extent, the negatives (the bench).

Here’s how Doc allocated minutes over the 82-game haul and against the Knicks in the first round:

A few thoughts:

  • At least half of this chart’s numbers should be blindingly obvious. The core four Celtics’ starters have all seen their minutes jump. And pretty much to a man, all four are around 2 minutes above what they averaged in last year’s playoffs. Encouraging: at least so far, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are healthier than they were last spring. So, the totals above may be sustainable. Which is important because:
  • Doc does not trust this bench at all. After 82 games of rotational machinations and Doc imploring his second unit to step up, he enters the second round with no one who can be trusted night after night after night. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.
  • Nenad Krstic, an offensive shooting star for about half-a-dozen games in March, was reduced to a nearly meaningless bit player in round one. If Shaquille O’Neal ever gets healthy, the big Serb might not see the floor at all.
  • A distinct possibility: the starters’ minutes will have to decrease in the future. Boston’s big four are in the middle of the longest siesta of their entire season. By the time they take the court again this weekend, they’ll have played only four games in a three week span (remember Doc gave them the last week of the regular season off). But the competition level and the workload are both about to intensify.
  • You have to wonder about Jermaine O’Neal’s various joints and muscles and other breakable parts. Will they hold up to greater minutes and greater intensity?

Okay, let’s get geekier with the usage and production stuff, after the jump.

Boston’s usage figures for both the regular season and the first round:

A few more thoughts:

  • Of all the shots we’ve learned to hate this season, we’ve hated none so much or so well as the Glen Davis mid-range jumper. Happily, the playoffs have seen his usage, along with the usage of several of his fellow bench-mates decreased. Basically, when they’re on the floor, Davis, Krstic and Delonte West are using up fewer possessions, while Rondo, Garnett, and Pierce are using up more. Depending on how you see it, that’s either a very, very good thing or a very, very bad thing.
  • O’Neal is way down from a usage perspective. He played well against New York but his impact was primarily on the defensive end. That’s where he should be focusing his energy, given the other offensive options on this team and the paucity of other bigs in this rotation who thrive on protecting the rim.
  • Note that Jeff Green is essentially unchanged from his regular season numbers. Note that Ray Allen is down. Neither of these things should make you happy.

Finally now, to the production numbers. We’re going to use PER despite its imperfections:

Still thinking:

  • Let’s start with the caveat. It was just the Knicks. And Miami and Chicago are two of the nastiest defensive teams in the league, with regards to closeouts and deterring penetration, exactly the kinds of things that could make Rondo and Pierce and Allen struggle in the half-court.
  • Still, Allen made an astronomical leap over the regular season in round one and Rondo was right behind. Even Garnett, who focused more on passing and off-the-ball offensive activities than scoring, upped his production. The switch is flipped, folks.
  • Pierce suffered because he had to cover Carmelo Anthony. Except for that lights-out game three (14-19), he shot a cumulative 19-52. And he only got to the line 3.5 times/game against a New York defense that seemed bewildered as often as not. There’s a chance Lebron James is going to shut off Pierce’s offense. Not only will Pierce have to expend major energy on the defensive end, but LBJ can be a monstrous defender when he’s dialed in. Unlike last year’s series against Cleveland, we should see a fully engaged James starting this weekend. Doesn’t bode well.
  • The more shots Allen gets, the better, assuming Boston can get him the kind of separation he got against New York. I refer you to Hayes’ piece yesterday on pick-setting.
  • We are running out of ways to say Jeff Green sucks without saying Jeff Green sucks. He shot .333 for the New York series and had just 14 rebounds in four games (67 minutes). As Brendan noted yesterday, he showed a little fire in game four, but amongst the Celtics’ four key bench guys, all of whom are looking for new contracts this offseason, nobody should be under more pressure  than Green. He delivers against Miami or he’s a failure. Anyone disagree?
  • West’s reduced playing time may be hidden-injury-related, it may be a round one anomaly with Rondo and Allen sucking up the vast majority of the guard minutes or it may be a function of his weak, tentative play on the offensive end (could Green be rubbing off on him?).

SUMMARY:

  • The starters are playing longer and better basketball and they’re doing most of the offensive work. Championship hopes rest on their shoulders and they appear more than capable of carrying them.
  • The starters are getting almost no support from this awful bench. This will eventually catch up with Boston if things don’t change.
  • Miami is not New York. Damn.
  • CsFanInArkansas

    The progression of this year's bench has been annoying…

    - We start the season with possibly the deepest, most talented bench in the league (not including The Beast still on the bench with an injury).
    - The bench is immediately dubbed the "Boston Bench Mob" – because, hell, they should be pretty damn good.
    - The entire team goes down with injury mid-season.
    - We trade/unload much of our bench AND The Beast.
    - We are told that our new, revamped bench (consisting of trade acquisitions and free agent pickups) is much better and deeper than our previous bench…and it's a healthy group.
    - The playoffs start and our bench still sucks…

    Fantastic…

  • Alex

    I've got no problem saying Jeff Green sucks, but I think it's going to be hard to judge him based on his play against Miami, where he'll either be matched up against a superstar or a scrub, depending on how Doc uses him. .

  • Steve B

    I'm anxious to see Green play at the 4 with KG at the 5 in some time against the Heat. It would depend on who the Heat have out since I hate to see Green covering the taller Bosh and KG on the center but the right matchups would be in the C's favor.

  • James Patrick

    Less BBD on the floor isn't exactly a bad thing, especially during crucial situations that require ALOT of thought! lol

  • kricky

    Right now I'd be happy to just get Green to play some tough D on Lebron (like Tony Allen did last year). But I think even this may be asking too much,

    Why did we trade for him again??

    • James Patrick

      I miss Tony Allen. We didn't trade him, we lost him to free agency. He's proving in Memphis we let a great one get away.

      • Seanthoughtwhat

        He was talking about Jeff Green, not TA. But at the same time, TA is a hard add to this team that needs scorers more-so than defensive presence. Delonte and Quis were supposed to be that defensive AND scoring back-ups to PP and Ray ray and Rondo, but Delonte's sort've hurt and well… we have Jeff Green.

        Who basically just doesn't understand fundamentals of defense and needs some serious work with a coach or three, and even then I'm not sure he'll learn. I think we tried to coat it by saying that Green is a great athletic player and potential defensive stopper. He's decent, but definitely not the best… I'd still take Quis over him.

        • AussieCeltic

          Quis wouldn't be contributing any more than Green during these playoffs though!

          • Seanthoughtwhat

            Hard to say… injured, obviously not. Not injured… Quisy was consistently good posting up smaller perimeter players and getting to the rim before he got injured.

  • Morpheus

    If Green fails to give any production off the bench against Miami, whether it be rebounding, scoring, defense, it'll be hard for him just to get a new contract at all.

    We need Green to SHOW UP in this series with Pierce being given the Herculean duty of guarding the LeDiva Train.

  • Robert

    Morpheus, that's a good point – Miami is a measuring point for the future. If the Celtics are going to compete for the Eastern Conference crown post-Big-Three, they're going to have to beat Miami and Chicago.

    Out of the young players on our roster, Rondo is obviously number 1, but Green is probably the second-best young player we have. If he's going to be a part of our future as a starter, he needs to prove himself as a reserve first.

    Green isn't going to be asked to do everything in this series, but what Doc does ask of him, he needs to do WELL. Chip in a couple boards, hit some jumpers, but most importantly, defend Lebron HARD. There's nobody else on this roster who's physically capable of doing it. It has to be him. If Green can't, Pierce isn't going to have anything left in the tank for offense and our scoring as a whole will suffer.

  • DRJ1

    It was always going to be the starters that carry this team to the championship. Always. Yes, they will have to suck it up and play harder and longer than ever. And all indications so far are that this is exactly what they are determined to do.

    So while it would be nice to have a better, more reliable bench… at least the Cs know exactly where they stand, and what they have to do. Most important is that they are doing it.

    Bottom line: none of this dissuades me from believing that this team is going all the way. They can be stopped, but not by any of the other teams out there… only by injury. Barring that, for me it's Celtics in 4. Every time.

  • talesofJP

    Shaq coming back would help out the bench too, no Kristic and JO off the pine would help that second unit out. Green needs to respond in this series coming up, he needs to show Boston why we gave up KP to get him. I think the Celts pick him up for next year regardless, it makes no sense to give up a half season of Perk for a half season of Jeff Green

  • Dan

    At least for Big Baby, I think his minutes haven't "decreased" but have gone back to where they should have been. He was playing a lot more when we didn't have a steady option at C. Hopefully this will coincide with him returning to the level he was at prior.

    I had zero expectations for Green and Kristic and so far they've proven me right. The big disappointment is Delonte West. He really seemed like he could be a useful role player. Hopefully the sight of LeBron motivates him to pick it up (and Mrs. James – or is she still in jail over that valet thing?)

    • diehardceltic

      LMAO on Ms. James!!!!

  • CG12

    Most everybody on the bench has been playing too tentatively. Delonte and Green, especially. I feel like they play way too slow, when they should be pushing the pace on offense. There is too much dribble and hand off offense, and not enough cutting and passing. Baby got a little of his swagger back in game 4, so hopefully it will carry over. He is a momentum guy and gets much worse when he over-thinks his play.

    I would like to see them make more of an effort to get the ball to Krstic in the post on occasion. He is probably, I'm afraid to say, their best true post-up player right now. I also agree that Krstic is much better playing with Rondo. Rondo is able to get him the ball when he is in great position, and the other guys aren't able to.

    I think that we will see the bench play better against Miami, as the time off between series gives them critical practice time that they never really got right after the OKC trade.

  • http://www.livefromapt.blogspot.com W2.

    Quis>Jeff Green….when Quis is healthy. Quis sadly is rarely healthy.

    Quis can post up and could get to the rim and finish in traffic. My guess is he takes fewer shots and shoots a better percentage as well. However….we know Quis and we know his ceiling. Green could be a bargain if he does not improve in the next round and we are able to resign him on the cheap (certainly less money than Perk). While in the short term his inability to improve on the court against the Heat would suck, I believe (OKC fans laugh and scoff at my optimism) that Green's best basketball is ahead of him.

    Come on Green!

  • aaron

    its amazing. if you were someone talented enough to get paid cash to play ball on national tv, came off the bench in the playoffs and got teamed up with the big 4, it'd be tough to want to shoot yourself. Ray is statistically shooting the lights out, PP has so much swagger, he knocked Spike Lee over, KG's sweaty forehead puts the ball in by itself, and rondo closes his eyes and makes a 15 foot jumper. BBd will always give me heartburn with his jumpers, cry or cheer, whatever. Jeff Green and Delonte are good at making their own offense, but they just need to get over the fact that there are amazing players on the court with them. West has paused on too many open shots just in the first round, it makes you wonder.
    I feel Green is good, he just needs to know he can do it too. He's a little guy who loves to post up, weird, and he can make the jumpers. He gets more rebounds than points, so the guy on weei with holley needs to lay off. And F, between green and JO, I don't think we've ever had that many blocked shots.
    To all the bench guys, just shoot the ball, it might go in, and we the fans will leave you alone.

    • Robert

      The funny thing is, Green is 6'9" but he plays like a smaller man.

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