Only four teams remain — the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the East, and the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs in the West. While many pundits emphasize the importance of bench players in the playoffs (for example, Shane Battier’s performance last year in the NBA Finals) it is also essential not to forget the impact of the starters, especially considering that starters usually play more minutes than the bench players in the playoffs (Mike Miller only played something like 20 minutes in the Chicago Bulls-Miami Heat series after being a key role player in the regular season).
Each team has a five-man lineup that has played a large chunk of playoff minutes. They are
- Bosh, Chalmers, James, Haslem, and Wade for the Miami Heat
- George, Hibbert, Hill, Stephenson, and West for the Indiana Pacers
- Allen, Conley, Gasol, Prince, and Randolph for the Memphis Grizzlies
- Duncan, Green, Leonard, Parker, and Splitter for the San Antonio Spurs
NBA Stats has a ranking called “Net Rating”, which basically measures the effectiveness of a five-man lineup. More specifically, “Net Rating” is the point differential per 100 possessions i.e. how much one lineup outscores their opponent. Here are the Net Ratings for each team’s main five-man lineup:
The main thing to observe is the dominance of Miami’s main lineup and also the success of Indiana’s main lineup. Both the Heat’s and the Pacers’ lineups outscore their opponent’s by more than 15 points per 100 possessions when they play. This is very impressive, especially considering that the Spurs’ best lineup only outscores their opponent by a paltry 1.3 points per 100 possessions. As I’ve stated over and over again — this Heat-Pacers matchup is going to be really really really entertaining.
On the flip side, the lack of dominance of the Spurs’ lineup says a couple things. One, it really says how balanced the Spurs are, and how deep San Antonio really is — especially after they shellacked the Grizzlies in Game 1. Basically, when the San Antonio starters play, they don’t really outscore their opposition, which in turn implies that it is the non-starters that really turn the tide for the Spurs. The other thing this lack of dominance reflects is how old the Spurs Trio has gotten. Duncan might be the same (i.e. the best power forward ever), and Parker has had terrific seasons the past couple of years, but the Spurs’ age has slowly caught up to them — and it shows.
One last thing: Yes, the Miami Heat’s statistic is slightly inflated because they played the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round (let’s not forget that the Spurs played the hapless Lakers in the first round too) but putting that aside, the Heat starters are still outscoring their opponents by more than 20 points per 100 possessions. That’s ridiculous, whether you’re playing the Milwaukee Bucks or the Chicago Bulls.