In the fourth quarter of Game 4, the Celtics ran into a bit of a problem. Out of the multitude of issues they faced while completing their 18-pound collapse, one of the biggest was rebounding. Boston surrendered five offensive rebounds, leading to four-second chance points in the frame alone, while being outscored 33-20.
“Rebounding, second chance points man,” Kevin Garnett said of what he took out of the Game 4 loss. “We control that. We control our destiny in that game. We didn’t do that, and in-turn second chance points means an opportunity [for them] to score.”
The main culprits of that rebounding problem were Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young, the best two big men the Sixers have to offer on their roster currently. Allen is a
second-year rookie who defends well, can shoot a jumper here and there, is mobile and can hit the glass. He’s averaging 8.5ppg and 6.5 rpg on 53 percent shooting in 25 minutes per game, a sharp jump from his four points, four rebounds per game average in regular season on 40 percent shooting.
Young needs no introduction as an explosive hybrid big man who can excel at either the 3 or 4 spot. Garnett even raved about him yesterday in practice.
“It makes them a little more versatile [with Young on the floor], Garnett explained. “Instead of three guys who can take you off the dribble you have four guys. He has outside shooting. He’s a slasher with the ability to hit the outside shot. He’s quick. He’s athletic. He’s young. That presents offensive rebounding problems and versatility problems.”
At practice yesterday I posed a question to Doc about the duo that played nearly the entire fourth quarter together in Game 4. It was a combination, I thought we hadn’t seen much of at this point.
CelticsHub: “They left in Allen and Young there and you went small in the fourth quarter. Do you think you guys can rebound effectively enough against those two bigs if they leave those two [Allen and Young] in there?”
“We’ve done it for three games,” Rivers replied. “That’s what they’ve done. It’s been Allen and Young in every game or Allen and Brand, or Allen and Hawes or Thaddeus Young and one of those two. For the first three games, we outrebounded them, Game 4 we didn’t, so it just has to be a feel each night.”
Now, Doc left me a bit perplexed with that response. Yes, it was true the C’s had gone small in the fourth quarter of the first three games against a combination of Sixers bigs (and sometimes a smaller Sixer lineup with one big), but had they in fact gone small against specifically the duo of Allen/Young, I wondered over the first three games?
Well, after some research the answer is for just a mere two minutes at beginning of the fourth quarter of Game 1. Investigating the other numbers, I was shocked and a bit concerned. In fact, one of the main things in this series so far the Celtics had taken advantage of before Game 4 in my opinion, was the fact Allen and Young had barely played together at all. When the two had seen the floor in unison though, they had done so quite well against Boston’s bigger lineups. Check out the plus/minus numbers along with the time the two spent together on the floor.
Game 1: +4 in 11:12 (C’s win by 1)
Game 2: +9 in 8:32 (Sixers win by 1)
Game 3: +1 in 13:28 (Sixers lose by 17)
Game 4: +12 in 28:15 (Sixers win by 9)
While we are here, let’s also look at the individual plus/minus stats for all of the Sixers’ bigs in this series for some more perspective
From the looks of these numbers, it looks like Doug Collins finally cracked the code by riding his best two bigs in the end of Game 4, where they went +13 against Boston’s small lineup over the final 12 minutes.
So while Doc may have been right about this team getting away with going small against Philly’s other bigs, he had not been able to try it against Young/Allen specifically, probably because Young had a bad shin injury for the first two games, limiting his effectiveness.
So was Doc playing with fool’s gold with the success of those small lineups at the end of the first two games? I’m not going to throw Game 3 in there as a game that saw success with the small lineup (even if Doc wants to), because Boston won that game with their big lineup over the first three quarters featuring Mr. Bass, a guy I hope we see more of tonight if he’s hitting his jumper. I’ll let Rivers explain his mea culpa from Game 4 and his philosophy going forward:
“Honestly, if we made one mistake, we should have gone back to Bass,” Doc admitted. “In the first three games, our small lineup was a better lineup than our big lineup. Statically, in Game 4, the big lineup was better; the big lineup was what got us the lead. The big lineup at the beginning of the third got off to a good start. And both times when we went small, it hurt us. So that’s something as a staff we have to recognize, and it’s a tough call. We’re going to have to make a call each game, it looks like, and there’s no right or wrong to it. It’s going to have to be a gut feeling and I hope when we make it, we make the right one.”
I hope so too Doc. If it’s Young/Allen out there though, please go with two bigs.