Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers (8:00ET on TNT): Celtics lead series 3-2
- Stat: With Philadelphia reserve big Lavoy Allen on the floor this postseason, the Boston Celtics have been outscored by 8.3 points per 48 minutes.
- Take: There are a seemingly infinite number of takeaways and observations gleaned from Philly’s big man rotation, but this stat farther illustrates what’s been so obvious throughout the first five games of this series – Lavoy Allen needs more playing time. A lot more. His +8.3 plus/minus, while impressive, isn’t even the mark that best conveys how much better the Sixers fare when he’s on the floor. No, what does is that Boston enjoys a plus/minus of +17.9 when Allen, the 50th pick 0f the 2011 NBA draft, is on the bench. And digging deeper into individual numbers that trio has compiled in this back-and-forth series, the correlation between success on the scoreboard for Philly and Allen being on the floor becomes even more obvious. Plus, there seems an obvious move Doug Collins should make in cutting one of these guys’ minutes. Let’s mini-bullet for emphasis and the use of color:
- Boston +/- per 48 minutes with Elton Brand…
- On Court: -19.1
- On Bench: +3.8
- Boston +/- per 48 minutes with Thaddeus Young…
- On Court: +8.3
- On Bench: +1.5
- Boston +/- per 48 minutes with Spencer Hawes…
- On Court: +7.7
- On Bench: +1.3
- What sticks out here? See those five numbers in a brighter and darker shade of green? They’re all within 2.5 points of each other, on the low “+” side for Boston, come with each player on the bench, and are much less than their on-court marks. So this, again, points to the overwhelmingly positive impact that Allen’s presence has on the Sixers. But wait, there’s a harsh blood red in there right at the top! It’s the sole “-” in the metrics listed! And it’s a whopping -19.1! Yes, that’s the Celtics’ plus/minus per 48 minutes when Elton Brand is on the floor, a dismal number that more than doubles Allen’s effect on Boston. Let’s assume, then, that Brand and Allen each deserve substantial minutes. That begs the question – can they play together? Well, evidence suggests not. The two have played just 48 minutes in the playoffs and registered a plus/minus of -10.5, and Allen’s numbers in particular are far superior when he’s playing without his much older doppelganger. So what’s the best frontcourt combination for Philly, then? Collins’ favorite duo has been the starting tandem of Brand-Hawes.
They’ve played 185 minutes together in the postseason – by far the most of any Philly frontcourt duo – and register a manageable plus/minus of -1.6. Next up is Young-Allen at 112 minutes and a solid +2.6, while Young-Hawes has played 71 minutes and garnered -10.6. You’ll notice a potential frontcourt pairing among this quartet is missing, and that’s because it’s the most seldom used and the most effective: Allen-Hawes. They’ve comprised of Philly’s bigs for just 28 minutes in the playoffs but enjoy a stellar plus/minus of +20.6 (yes, the “small sample size” thing definitely applies here). It’s anyone’s guess why Collins refuses to play the two of them simultaneously more often, but one suspects it has to do with the fact that Allen’s regular season rise coincided with Hawes’ injury, and as a result they could lack a certain cohesiveness. The numbers suggest otherwise, obviously, but don’t expect Collins to suddenly try them in the lineup for extended minutes as the Sixers face elimination in tonight’s game 6. Deviating from a plan that’s been used to mild success is always a difficult thing to do, and Collins isn’t the type of coach that goes out on limbs of which he doesn’t know the strength. He should with Allen–Hawes, though, and in that same vein he should limit the undersized Young’s minutes altogether and ride his three true big men. We mentioned on Monday that rebounding is paramount in this series, and Allen, Hawes, and Brand can exploit Boston there in ways Young can’t. So, what are all those takeaways from Philadelphia’s bigs rotation that we mentioned earlier? The ones touched on above:
- Allen needs to play.
- Brand does too.
- Allen-Hawes is an underused weapon.
- And Young’s playing time should be cut in half.
- Again, Collins is very unlikely to try combinations he’s rarely used and is as equally so to limit the minutes of Young in the biggest game of the season. Pay special attention to his substitution patterns with regard to Philly’s bigs, though, as they’ve tended to pose a drastic impact in each game of this series.