The Playoff Shift: Minutes, Usage & Production
Posted by Ryan DeGama on Apr 26, 2011
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:
- 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?).
- 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.