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John Schuhmann

StatsCube: Playing the best lineup in the postseason

Posted Apr 15 2011 6:46PM

Sometimes, the numbers confirm what you see. Sometimes they don't. But when taken in context, they always give you more information.

Here's an analysis of the lineups for the teams in the NBA playoffs, courtesy a dive into the StatsCube. First, some important terms to remember:

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
Off.. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Indiana Pacers (8)
Most-used Bulls lineups
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1* Rose Bogans Deng Boozer Noah 29 420 102.1 97.6 +4.5
2 Rose Bogans Deng Boozer Thomas 30 403 109.9 103.2 +6.8
3 Rose Bogans Deng Gibson Noah 19 211 105.5 100.7 +4.9
4 Watson Brewer Korver Gibson Asik 49 178 93.9 91.7 +2.2
5 Watson Brewer Deng Gibson Asik 45 168 93.0 83.1 +9.9
6 Rose Korver Deng Boozer Noah 28 166 120.3 108.5 +11.8
7 Rose Brewer Deng Gibson Asik 40 146 113.3 83.0 +30.3
8 Rose Korver Deng Boozer Thomas 26 112 97.6 102.6 -5.0
9 Rose Brewer Deng Gibson Thomas 36 103 110.1 83.3 +26.8
10 Rose Brewer Deng Boozer Thomas 25 101 98.8 98.1 +0.6
*Current starting lineup
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Chicago Bulls
-- Pace: 92.9 (22), Off. Eff.: 105.5 (12), Def. Eff.: 97.4 (1)
Post-break -- Pace: 91.2 (27), Off. Eff.: 108.5 (8), Def. Eff.: 97.3 (1)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 10

The Bulls have the MVP in Rose, but they finished with the league's best record in large part because of their depth. With Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missing a combined 59 games, the Bulls' starters didn't play that many games together. They were the sixth most-used starting lineup among playoff teams. Interestingly, they weren't that strong offensively, well below the league average of 104.9 points score per 100 possessions.

When the Bulls replace Keith Bogans with Kyle Korver, they have a lineup that has been much more potent offensively, but hasn't met the Bulls' defensive standards. This is Tom Thibodeau's lineup when he needs a bucket down the stretch.

When the Bulls go to their bench, they become incredibly good defensively. They have three lineups that have played at least 100 minutes and allowed fewer than 84 points per 100 possessions. All three include Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and at least one other bench player (Omer Asik, C.J. Watson or Kurt Thomas).

Against Indiana: 3-1, Off. Eff. = 106.6, Def. Eff. = 93.3
The Bulls' current starting lineup played in just one game against Indiana. It was a dominant plus-21 in 16 minutes in the Bulls' 92-73 win on Dec. 13. The Bulls' bench unit of Watson, Brewer, Deng, Gibson and Asik was a plus-14 in 13 minutes together over three games against Indiana, allowing the Pacers to shoot just 6-for-25.

Most-used Pacers' lineup
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1 Collison Dunleavy Granger McRoberts Hibbert 38 443 110.8 97.3 +13.5
2* Collison George Granger Hansbrough Hibbert 35 329 102.0 106.7 -4.7
3 Collison Rush Granger McRoberts Hibbert 29 246 99.2 111.8 -12.6
4 Collison Dunleavy Granger Hansbrough Hibbert 29 152 98.8 95.5 +3.3
5 Collison Rush Granger Hansbrough Hibbert 31 133 97.0 109.8 -12.9
6 Price Jones George Hansbrough Foster 16 100 111.8 99.6 +12.2
*Current starting lineup
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Indiana Pacers
-- Pace: 97.3 (6), Off. Eff.: 101.9 (22), Def. Eff.: 103.4 (12)
Post-break -- Pace: 97.9 (5), Off. Eff.: 101.4 (23), Def. Eff.: 104.6 (14)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 6

The Pacers' current starters put in just 17 games together over the last month-plus of the season. The Pacers were 9-8 in those games. The lineup wasn't very good, especially defensively (relative to other Indiana lineups).

Sometimes, StatsCube data doesn't meet your expectations, like with how good Lineup 6 has been offensively. This unit played in somewhat limited minutes and hasn't played since March 18, but it did have a handful of good runs. In two different games, it outscored the Heat 50-31 in 16 total minutes.

Meanwhile, you would think that Lineup 4 would be better offensively than defensively, but that's not the case.

Lineup 1 was the Pacers' most used lineup and most effective, but curiously, Frank Vogel used it for just 19 minutes after the All-Star break, and 16 of those came in the first game after the break.

Against Chicago: The Pacers had only three lineups that played in more than one game against the Bulls, and each of those played in only two. The current starters were an encouraging plus-13 in 14 minutes in the Pacers' OT win over Chicago on March 18 (a game Carlos Boozer missed). And lineup No. 1 above was a plus-8 in 17 total minutes over two games.

Bulls-Pacers matchup focus: Over the last four seasons, Danny Granger has shot 43.7 percent overall, 41.7 percent in 13 games against the Bulls, and 38.8 percent in 303 minutes with Luol Deng on the floor.

Orlando Magic (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)
Most-used Magic lineups
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1* Nelson J.Richardson Turkoglu Bass Howard 45 630 105.0 94.4 +10.6
2 Nelson J.Richardson Turkoglu Anderson Howard 33 216 114.1 109.7 +4.4
3x Nelson Carter Q.Richardson Lewis Howard 13 153 100.4 101.4 -1.0
4 Arenas Redick Turkoglu Anderson Howard 26 98 114.1 93.5 +20.6
5 Arenas Redick J. Richardson Anderson Howard 25 88 119.5 100.1 +19.4
6 Arenas Redick Turkoglu Anderson Bass 19 87 90.9 93.0 -2.0
*Current starting lineup
xNo longer valid
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Orlando Magic
-- Pace: 93.5 (18), Off. Eff.: 105.7 (10), Def. Eff.: 99.1 (3)
Post-break -- Pace: 92.4 (22), Off. Eff.: 105.0 (15), Def. Eff.: 98.7 (3)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 3 (2 with current roster)

Despite their midseason shakeup, the Magic have the third most-used starting lineup among playoff teams. And that lineup has the best defense among all lineups (33 total) that have played at least 300 minutes together.

When the Magic replace Brandon Bass with Ryan Anderson, they sacrifice defense for offense. Anderson obviously spaces the floor around Dwight Howard, and is also a very good offensive rebounder.

Beyond the first two, the only Orlando lineup that played at least 100 minutes included Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, who were both traded in December. But for lineups that have played a little less than 100 minutes, there are some positive results with Gilbert Arenas.

Against Atlanta: 1-3, Off. Eff.= 91.6, Def. Eff. = 94.9
The Magic's starting lineup was a minus-9 in 27 minutes over two games, shooting 17-for-43.

Most-used Hawks' lineups
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1 Hinrich Johnson Williams Smith Horford 12 150 93.4 102.4 -9.0
2 Crawford Johnson Williams Smith Horford 30 99 91.5 119.6 -28.0
3 Hinrich Crawford Johnson Smith Horford 15 89 102.1 111.6 -9.4
4 Teague Johnson Williams Smith Horford 7 55 111.6 75.8 +35.8
20* Hinrich Johnson Smith Horford Collins 2 26 83.3 78.5 +4.8
*Current starting lineup
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Atlanta Hawks
-- Pace: 91.6 (27), Off. Eff.: 103.2 (21), Def. Eff.: 104.6 (15)
Post-break -- Pace: 90.5 (29), Off. Eff.: 100.6 (25), Def. Eff.: 107.3 (20)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 4 (1 with current roster)

To simplify things with the Hawks, we're only looking at current Atlanta lineups. The Hawks' three most-used lineups all included Mike Bibby, who was dealt to Washington in a five-player deal. And all three were pretty good (+6.9 points per 100 possessions total).

The Hawks' regular starting lineup is the only other one that's played at least 100 minutes, and it's been pretty awful, especially offensively. Atlanta's next most-used lineup has been even worse, and from the numbers above, it's clear that the Hawks' defense drops off dramatically when Jamal Crawford steps on the floor.

With Jason Collins able to somewhat neutralize Howard, the Hawks will start him against the Magic. But since the trade, they've used that unit just twice, and that unit has played some ugly basketball. But the way the Hawks' offense has played since the All-Star break, they have no choice but to make this series ugly.

Against Orlando: The starting lineup with Hinrich and Collins was a plus-four in 15 minutes in the Hawks' 85-82 win on March 30. With Bibby instead of Hinrich, the lineup was a plus-12 in 31 minutes over two games against the Magic.

Magic-Hawks matchup focus: Over the last four seasons, Josh Smith has attempted 56.8 percent of his shots from within five feet of the basket. But with Howard on the floor, he's attempted only 37.6 percent of his shots from within five feet.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (7)
Most-used Heat lineups
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1x Arroyo Wade James Bosh Ilgauskas 35 428 111.7 100.3 +11.5
2 Chalmers Wade James Bosh Dampier 28 269 104.5 92.1 +12.4
3x Arroyo Wade James Bosh Anthony 24 177 112.9 90.9 +22.0
4 Chalmers Wade James Bosh Ilgauskas 23 174 113.8 99.8 +14.1
5 Chalmers Wade James Bosh Anthony 33 149 113.9 97.9 +16.0
6 Bibby Wade James Bosh Dampier 12 115 123.3 104.8 +18.5
13* Bibby Wade James Bosh Ilgauskas 7 48 108.7 100.5 +8.2
*Current starting lineup
x No longer valid
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Miami Heat
-- Pace: 93.2 (21), Off. Eff.: 109.3 (3), Def. Eff.: 100.7 (5)
Post-break -- Pace: 92.8 (21), Off. Eff.: 110.4 (2), Def. Eff.: 103.2 (11)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 6 (4 with current roster)

When it comes to lineup data, no team is more fascinating than the Heat. Of their 22 most-used lineups, 21 of them had a positive plus-minus, and the 22nd was even. But no Miami lineup has played in more than 35 games, with Erik Spoelstra making multiple changes to his starting lineup over the course of the season.

With two point guards and three centers, there are a lot of different combinations to come up with. And as noted above, they've all produced positive results, thanks to the team's three All-Stars. The latest starting lineup, with Mike Bibby at the point and Zydrunas Ilgauskas at center, hasn't played that much.

For the most part, Bibby has helped the Heat offensively and hurt them defensively. And Mario Chalmers' defense ends up being a pretty good complement to Bibby's offense.

Against Philadelphia: 3-0, Off. Eff. = 109.8, Def. Eff. = 97.4
Only one Heat lineup played in more than one game against the Sixers, and that one included Eddie House, who hasn't been in the rotation lately. Miami's current starting lineup didn't play against the Sixers at all.

Most-used Sixers' lineup
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1* Holiday Meeks Iguodala Brand Hawes 56 776 105.6 100.6 +5.0
2 Holiday Meeks Iguodala Young Brand 42 185 115.6 93.2 +22.4
3 Holiday Williams Iguodala Young Brand 38 117 117.0 101.8 +15.1
4 Holiday Turner Iguodala Brand Hawes 25 111 100.1 106.9 -6.8
5 Williams Turner Iguodala Young Brand 32 108 108.8 92.3 +16.6
*Current starting lineup
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Philadelphia 76ers
-- Pace: 94.0 (16), Off. Eff.: 104.0 (17), Def. Eff.: 102.5 (10)
Post-break -- Pace: 94.7 (13), Off. Eff.: 104.2 (18), Def. Eff.: 102.5 (9)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 5

No team is more balanced than the Sixers, who have six guys averaging in double-figures. But they've had mixed results when it comes to their most used lineups.

Doug Collins' switch to his current starting lineup in Game 19 keyed the Sixers' turnaround, and it's been effective as the fourth most-used lineup in the league. But the Sixers have other lineups that have been stronger.

Of the 161 lineups in the league that played at least 100 minutes together, Lineup No. 2 above was the sixth most-effective, but Collins usually doesn't use it for more than a few minutes at a time. Clearly, the Sixers are better when they go small, with Thaddeus Young at the four and Elton Brand playing center.

Against Miami: Though the Heat swept the season series 3-0, the Sixers' current starting lineup played them even. The Philly starters were a minus-1 in 18 minutes over the last two games. Lineup No. 2 was a plus-one in 13 minutes against Miami.

Heat-Sixers matchup focus: Thaddeus Young was efficient against the Heat this season. He shot 16-for-25, with a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent in three games. He was more efficient only against Washington (85.9 percent) and Cleveland (75.1 percent).

Boston Celtics (3) vs. NY Knicks (6)
Most-used Celtics' lineups
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1 Rondo Allen Pierce Garnett Davis 55 515 111.2 94.5 +16.7
2 Rondo Allen Pierce Garnett Krstic 18 285 106.9 96.0 +10.9
3 Rondo Allen Pierce Garnett S. O'Neal 18 266 115.1 96.1 +19.1
4x Rondo Allen Pierce Garnett Perkins 12 170 110.4 97.8 +12.6
5 Rondo Allen Pierce Davis S. O'Neal 15 160 119.1 104.8 +14.3
6* Rondo Allen Pierce Garnett J. O'Neal 9 127 102.6 97.3 +5.3
*Current starting lineup
x No longer valid
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Boston Celtics
-- Pace: 92.6 (23), Off. Eff.: 104.0 (18), Def. Eff.: 97.8 (2)
Post-break -- Pace: 92.0 (23), Off. Eff.: 101.9 (20), Def. Eff.: 98.5 (2)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 8 (5 with current roster)

A deadline trade and late-season slump skew the numbers a bit, but one thing is clear: When the Celtics have their four All-Stars on the floor, they're still very good. There's not much to distinguish lineups above, other than the offensive slump the Celtics have been in with their current starting lineup and how the defense drops off when Garnett steps off the floor.

With how good the Celtics were with him in the lineup, Shaq's health is obviously a big story in the playoffs.

Against New York: 4-0, Off. Eff. = 109.9, Def. Eff. = 105.0
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Davis were a plus-21 in 28 minutes over the first three games of the season series.

Most-used Knicks' lineups
Since Carmelo Anthony trade
No. PG SG SF PF C GP Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
1* Billups Fields Anthony Stoudemire Turiaf 10 94 103.4 105.4 -2.0
2 Douglas Fields Anthony Stoudemire Jeffries 10 86 126.2 105.3 +21.0
3 Billups Fields Anthony Stoudemire Jeffries 11 71 117.5 107.6 +9.9
4 Billups Fields Anthony Stoudemire Sha. Williams 12 67 102.2 119.7 -17.5
5 Billups Douglas Anthony Stoudemire Sha. Williams 9 58 109.2 116.3 -7.1
6 Billups Fields Anthony Stoudemire She. Williams 7 55 101.8 120.3 -18.5
*Current starting lineup
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

New York Knicks
-- Pace: 98.2 (2), Off. Eff.: 108.3 (5), Def. Eff.: 106.5 (21)
Post-break -- Pace: 97.1 (7), Off. Eff.: 109.8 (4), Def. Eff.: 108.5 (25)
Lineups with 100-plus minutes: 4 (0 with current roster)

With the Knicks, there's no real point in looking at lineups that existed before they traded for Carmelo Anthony, because this is a completely different team. And not only did they shake up their roster at the deadline, but Mike D'Antoni spent the next few weeks searching for a starting lineup that works. So no post-trade lineup logged 100 minutes together.

Their starting lineup for Game 1 against the Celtics came the closest and is actually a decent defensive lineup by Knicks standards, but it's relatively bad offensively. The Knicks' offense picks up with Toney Douglas, Shawne Williams or (believe it or not) Jared Jeffries on the floor.

Lineup No. 2 was actually the second most effective lineup in the league since the All-Star break (minimum of 75 minutes), but its numbers are very skewed by a plus-26 mark in a blowout win over Utah. That's the problem with small sample sizes.

Against Boston: With both teams resting stars in the final game of the season, the Knicks and Celtics played just one real game (March 21) since the Anthony trade. The Knicks' starting lineup was a minus-eight in 16 minutes in that game, bad on both ends of the floor.

Celtics-Knicks matchup focus: In the Celtics' 96-86 win at Madison Square Garden on March 21, the Celtics' lineup of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis and Garnett was a plus-23 in 14 minutes together. The Knicks shot 4-for-21 against that lineup (1-for-6 in the first quarter, 1-for-3 in the third, and 2-for-12 in the fourth).

Coming: A breakdown of the playoff lineups in the Western Conference.


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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