Following Sunday’s action, we are four games into every first-round series with the exception of Brooklyn-Boston, which has its Game 4 set for Monday (7:00 ET on TNT). The Celtics can be the first team to advance to the conference semifinals if they can complete the sweep on the road, while the Sixers also look to advance on Monday when they host Toronto (8:00 ET, NBA TV).
With 31 games in the books and at least 11 more to be played in the first round, let’s dig into the lineup data to see which five-man groups have been the most effective thus far. When it comes to the chess match that is a playoff series, finding the right player combinations and rotations is especially crucial.
Making things even more difficult has been a flurry of injuries that throw normal starting lineups and substitution patterns out of whack. We’ve seen some key players go down with injuries during the first round — Devin Booker (hamstring), Khris Middleton (knee), Kyle Lowry (hamstring). And we’ve seen other key players return after starting the playoffs in street clothes — Luka Doncic (calf), Robert Williams III (knee), Clint Capela (knee).
Below are the top 10 teams in total plus/minus through games played on Sunday, April 24.
|K. Lowry, P. Tucker, J. Butler, B. Adebayo, M. Strus||MIA||3||37||35||MIA 3-1||84||52.5||48.1|
|J. Harden, D. Green, T. Harris, J. Embiid, T. Maxey||PHI||4||31||86||PHI 3-1||184||44.9||31.1|
|S. Curry, K. Thompson, D. Green, A. Wiggins, J. Poole||GSW||4||26||32||GSW 3-1||102||63.6||54.2|
|C. Paul, J. Crowder, C. Payne, M. Bridges, D. Ayton||PHX||4||20||15||Tied 2-2||39||57.7||33.3|
|K. Anderson, D. Brooks, J. Morant, X. Tillman, D. Bane||MEM||3||20||10||Tied 2-2||31||66.7||85.7|
|D. Brooks, J. Jackson Jr., J. Morant, B. Clarke, D. Bane||MEM||4||18||27||Tied 2-2||77||48.9||44.4|
|B. Bogdanovic, D. Wright, K. Huerter, T. Young, O. Okongwu||ATL||1||18||9||ATL 1-3||31||61.1||50|
|A. Horford, M. Smart, J. Brown, J. Tatum, D. Theis||BOS||3||16||43||BOS 3-0||107||49.3||46.7|
|J. Harden, D. Green, T. Harris, T. Maxey, P. Reed||PHI||4||16||12||PHI 3-1||38||71.4||71.4|
|C. McCollum, L. Nance Jr., B. Ingram, H. Jones, T. Murphy III||NOP||4||15||10||Tied 2-2||34||52.6||63.6|
- The minutes played from the Philadelphia lineup, which leads all five-man lineups with 86 minutes played over four games thus far in the series. The Sixers are one of two teams – along with Memphis – to have two lineups ranked in the top 10 in plus/minus. Philly’s second lineup – which is plus-16 in 12 minutes – does not include Joel Embiid, who is playing through a thumb injury on his shooting hand.
- The shooting percentages (63.6 FG%, 54.2 3P%, 82.6 FT%) and the assist/turnover ratio (24/6) of the Golden State lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, which has scored 102 points in just 32 minutes together through four games.
- Miami has the top lineup on this list, outscoring the Hawks by 37 points in 35 minutes with Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Max Strus on the court together. This group has only appeared in three of the four games in the series as Lowry missed Game 4 due to a hamstring injury. The Heat were able to win without him to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
We mentioned the Sixers lineup that has shared the court for the most minutes. Here’s a look at the top 11 (there was a tie for 10th) in minutes played so far.
|J. Harden, D. Green, T. Harris, J. Embiid, T. Maxey||PHI||4||31||86||PHI 3-1|
|J. Green, W. Barton, A. Gordon, N. Jokic, M. Morris||DEN||4||-24||71||Tied 2-2|
|D. DeRozan, N. Vucevic, Z. LaVine, A. Caruso, P. Williams||CHI||4||-29||69||CHI 1-3|
|M. Conley, B. Bogdanovic, R. Gobert, R. O’Neale, D. Mitchell||UTA||4||-19||59||Tied 2-2|
|P. Beverley, D. Russell, K. Towns, J. Vanderbilt, A. Edwards||MIN||4||-1||58||Tied 2-2|
|R. Bullock, S. Dinwiddie, D. Finney-Smith, M. Kleber, J. Brunson||DAL||4||2||55||Tied 2-2|
|J. Valanciunas, C. McCollum, B. Ingram, J. Hayes, H. Jones||NOP||4||-3||50||Tied 2-2|
|K. Durant, K. Irving, A. Drummond, S. Curry, B. Brown||BKN||3||-17||48||BKN 0-3|
|A. Horford, M. Smart, J. Brown, J. Tatum, D. Theis||BOS||3||16||43||BOS 3-0|
|K. Thompson, D. Green, A. Wiggins, K. Looney, J. Poole||GSW||4||6||39||GSW 3-1|
|C. Paul, J. Crowder, D. Booker, M. Bridges, D. Ayton||PHX||2||-4||39||Tied 2-2|
- The most notable takeaway from this list is the fact that only four of these 11 lineups have a positive plus/minus in their respective series: Philadelphia (+31 in 86 minutes), Dallas (+2 in 55 minutes), Boston (+16 in 39 minutes) and Golden State (+6 in 39 minutes).
- We must note, the Warriors lineup that has played the most minutes is their starting five that does not include Stephen Curry, who has come off the bench in each game in this series after missing the final 11 games of the regular season due to injury.
When looking for the most efficient lineups, we had to add a minutes-played parameter to remove a plethora of little-used lineups with very skewed numbers. As we look at offensive, defensive and net efficiency, we used a minimum of 15 minutes played, which gave us 37 different lineups to compare. Below are the top 11 in offensive efficiency – the only 11 with an offensive rating greater than 120 points scored per 100 possessions.
|S. Curry, K. Thompson, D. Green, A. Wiggins, J. Poole||GSW||4||GSW 3-1||32||147.8||75.5||78.3|
|R. Bullock, S. Dinwiddie, D. Finney-Smith, M. Kleber, J. Brunson||DAL||4||Tied 2-2||55||133.3||64.0||68.2|
|B. Bogdanovic, R. Gobert, J. Clarkson, R. O’Neale, D. Mitchell||UTA||3||Tied 2-2||28||130.8||59.5||63.1|
|D. Brooks, J. Jackson Jr., J. Morant, B. Clarke, D. Bane||MEM||4||Tied 2-2||27||130.5||57.4||63.5|
|C. Paul, J. Crowder, C. Payne, M. Bridges, D. Ayton||PHX||4||Tied 2-2||15||130.0||63.5||68.1|
|J. Valanciunas, C. McCollum, B. Ingram, H. Jones, T. Murphy III||NOP||3||Tied 2-2||20||126.2||61.4||63.7|
|R. Bullock, D. Powell, D. Finney-Smith, J. Brunson, L. Doncic||DAL||1||Tied 2-2||17||123.5||63.5||68.1|
|H. Whiteside, B. Bogdanovic, J. Clarkson, R. O’Neale, D. Mitchell||UTA||3||Tied 2-2||15||122.2||58.7||60.2|
|K. Lowry, P. Tucker, J. Butler, B. Adebayo, M. Strus||MIA||3||MIA 3-1||35||121.7||63.1||63.4|
|K. Thompson, D. Green, A. Wiggins, K. Looney, J. Poole||GSW||4||GSW 3-1||39||121.6||62.1||63.1|
|B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, G. Antetokounmpo, B. Portis||MIL||2||MIL 3-1||20||120.9||63.2||62.6|
- The Poole Party is back and leading the way with an incredible 147.8 offensive efficiency rating – 14.5 points greater than any other five-man lineup thus far in the postseason. So, when we take the Splash Brothers and add Jordan Poole, that equals a true shooting percentage of 78.3% – nearly nine percentage points higher than any other qualified lineup (Denver 69.7%).
- No team in the top 11 in offensive efficiency is trailing in their respective playoff series; four lineups are up 3-1 (including two from Golden State) and the other seven are tied at 2-2.
- The Warriors are the only team with two five-man lineups in the top 11 while appearing in every game of their series. The Mavericks have one lineup that has played in all four games against Utah (Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson – second at 133.3 in 55 minutes together) and one that includes Luka Doncic that appeared only in Game 4 (123.5 in 17 minutes).
- Utah also has two lineups in the top 11, but each has only appeared in three games together. The five-man group of Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale and Donovan Mitchell ranks third at 130.8, while Utah’s lineup swapping in Hassan Whiteside for Gobert ranks eighth at 122.2.
Now let’s shift to the other end of the court and see which five-man lineups have been the stingiest through the playoffs thus far.
|B. Bogdanovic, D. Wright, T. Young, D. Hunter, O. Okongwu||ATL||3||ATL 1-3||15||63.6||30.0 (2)||18.2 (7)|
|C. Paul, J. Crowder, C. Payne, M. Bridges, D. Ayton||PHX||4||Tied 2-2||15||65.5||25.0 (1)||20.7 (4)|
|K. Lowry, P. Tucker, J. Butler, B. Adebayo, M. Strus||MIA||3||MIA 3-1||35||67.1||36.6 (5)||15.7 (10)|
|R. Bullock, D. Powell, D. Finney-Smith, J. Brunson, L. Doncic||DAL||1||Tied 2-2||17||82.4||35.5 (4)||8.8 (31)|
|B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, G. Antetokounmpo, B. Portis||MIL||2||MIL 3-1||20||92.7||45.9 (9)||9.8 (28)|
|B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, K. Middleton, G. Antetokounmpo||MIL||2||MIL 3-1||29||93.3||48.2 (12)||8.3 (33)|
|R. Bullock, S. Dinwiddie, D. Powell, D. Finney-Smith, J. Brunson||DAL||3||Tied 2-2||35||94.1||44.3 (7)||11.8 (20)|
|J. Harden, D. Green, T. Harris, J. Embiid, T. Maxey||PHI||4||PHI 3-1||86||94.4||42.5 (6)||9.3 (30)|
|D. Brooks, J. Jackson Jr., J. Morant, B. Clarke, D. Bane||MEM||4||Tied 2-2||27||98.3||45.1 (8)||20.0 (T-5)|
|A. Horford, M. Smart, J. Brown, J. Tatum, D. Theis||BOS||3||BOS 3-0||43||98.9||58.2 (26)||23.9 (1)|
- These are the only 10 qualified five-man lineups that have posted a defensive rating below 100; the next closest is a lineup from Utah at 103.2.
- There are five series currently a team one win away from advancing to the conference semifinals. Four of those five teams have a top 10 defense so far in the postseason, with the only exception being Golden State. The Warriors’ top lineup ranks 18th among the 37 qualified lineups with a defensive rating of 113.4.
- The Hawks own the top defensive lineup in the playoffs with the five-man group of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Delon Wright, Trae Young, De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu holding opponents to 63.6 points per 100 possessions. However, the lineup just meets the minimum of 15 minutes played together. That lineup does have a net rating of plus-30.0, so keep an eye out for it in Game 5.
- There is a common correlation between a great defensive rating and holding opponents to a low effective field goal percentage. Out of the top 10 defensive lineups, nine rank in the top 12 in lowest opponent eFG% allowed, led by Phoenix’s lineup of Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, which has held the Pelicans to an effective field goal percentage of 25.0% in 15 minutes together in the series.
- The only exception to this connection is the Boston lineup of Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis, which ranks 10th in defense (98.9) and 26th in opponent eFG% (58.2%). However, the Celtics make up for that high shooting percentage by forcing the highest turnover ratio at 23.9%.
- We see the injury effect when it comes to Milwaukee and Dallas as both teams have two teams ranked in the top 10, but neither has appeared in all four games together as Middleton and Doncic have been out of the lineup for multiple games.
We’ve seen the best offenses and the best defenses, now it’s time to put them together and look at the top 10 lineups in net efficiency rating – point differential per 100 possessions.
|C. Paul, J. Crowder, C. Payne, M. Bridges, D. Ayton||PHX||4||15||64.5||130.0 (5)||65.5 (2)||Tied 2-2|
|K. Lowry, P. Tucker, J. Butler, B. Adebayo, M. Strus||MIA||3||35||54.6||121.7 (9)||67.1 (3)||MIA 3-1|
|R. Bullock, D. Powell, D. Finney-Smith, J. Brunson, L. Doncic||DAL||1||17||41.2||123.5 (7)||82.4 (4)||Tied 2-2|
|S. Curry, K. Thompson, D. Green, A. Wiggins, J. Poole||GSW||4||32||34.4||147.8 (1)||113.4 (18)||GSW 3-1|
|D. Brooks, J. Jackson Jr., J. Morant, B. Clarke, D. Bane||MEM||4||27||32.2||130.5 (4)||98.3 (9)||Tied 2-2|
|B. Bogdanovic, D. Wright, T. Young, D. Hunter, O. Okongwu||ATL||3||15||30.3||93.9 (32)||63.6 (1)||ATL 1-3|
|B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, G. Antetokounmpo, B. Portis||MIL||2||20||28.2||120.9 (11)||92.7 (5)||MIL 3-1|
|B. Lopez, J. Holiday, W. Matthews, K. Middleton, G. Antetokounmpo||MIL||2||29||23.9||117.2 (15)||93.3 (6)||MIL 3-1|
|A. Horford, M. Smart, J. Brown, J. Tatum, D. Theis||BOS||3||43||20.0||118.9 (13)||98.9 (10)||BOS 3-0|
|J. Harden, D. Green, T. Harris, J. Embiid, T. Maxey||PHI||4||86||19.8||114.3 (19)||94.4 (8)||PHI 3-1|
- Only 10 of the 37 qualified lineups posted a net rating greater than 19; the next closest was Dallas’ second lineup swapping Spencer Dinwiddie for Luka Doncic at 13.5.
- The Suns lineup of Paul, Crowder, Payne, Bridges and Ayton not only has the top net rating at 64.5, they also are the only lineup that ranked in the top five in both offense (5th) and defense (2nd). Only three other lineups ranked in the top 10 in both categories: Miami, Dallas and Memphis.
- While the Mavericks’ most-used lineup with Luka Doncic on the floor was outstanding with a net rating of 41.2 in 17 minutes together in Game 4, Dallas fell to Utah late in the closing seconds to even their series at 2-2.
- Boston and Philadelphia both have a chance to close out their series on Monday and their top lineup rank ninth and tenth in net efficiency. However, it should be noted that they are also the two most used lineups on that top 10 list and have maintained a net rating near 20 while averaging 14.3 (Boston) and 21.5 (Philadelphia) minutes per game together.