Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.
After Games 1 and 2, we met two lineups, The Grays and The Longs, and identified the utilization of each as an example of the approach the Mavericks and Blazers were bringing to this series. The part played by each unit changed dramatically over Games 3 and 4, again revealing a lot about the status of each team.
The Longs have essentially disappeared from Portland’s rotation, playing less than a minute together over the past two games. Nate McMillan obviously has some player combinations he likes better. He might want to take a look at these numbers, because despite taking both games in Portland, most of what he’s been trying hasn’t worked very well. The table below shows the five-man units Portland has used for at least three minutes over the past three games.
|Lineup||Minutes||Poss. For||Poss. Opp||Pts. For||Pts. Opp||ORtg.||DRtg.||Net|
|Miller - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge - Camby||53.17||91||90||96||98||105.5||108.9||-3.4|
|Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge||15.65||28||27||33||41||117.9||151.9||-34.0|
|Miller - Matthews - Batum - Wallace - Aldridge||19.10||32||33||26||39||81.3||118.2||-36.9|
|Miller - Roy - Matthews - Wallace - Aldridge||11.63||22||20||32||18||145.5||90.0||+55.5|
|Miller - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge - Camby||9.80||16||17||20||25||125.0||147.1||-22.1|
|Fernandez - Roy - Matthews - Batum - Aldridge||5.22||8||9||10||8||125.0||88.9||+36.1|
|Fernandez - Roy - Batum - Wallace - Camby||3.06||6||5||5||5||50.0||100.0||-50.0|
Over that stretch, only one lineup has consistently hurt the Mavericks. It’s the Andre Miller – Brandon Roy – Wesley Matthews – Gerald Wallace – LaMarcus Aldridge combination, which has outscored the Mavericks by 14 points across 11 minutes. Interestingly enough, this lineup only played 2 minutes and 48 seconds together during the Blazers fourth quarter comeback on Saturday.
The Blazers’ 20-point advantage in that quarter was built mostly by two other lineups. The Rudy Fernandez – Roy – Nicolas Batum – Wallace – Aldridge configuration was +7 over the first 6:28 of the 4th. The Roy – Matthews – Batum – Wallace – Aldridge lineup was +8 over a one-minute, 43-second span towards the end of the quarter. However, those two lineups have played another 18 minutes together across the rest of the series, in which they were outscored by Dallas by 13 points. The Blazers didn’t run away with the fourth quarter because they stumbled into an effective new lineup. Rather, a method they had tried previously began to click. For one quarter, Brandon Roy turned into Jerry West and Jason Terry turned into Darrick Martin, triggering a sudden change in the performance of a familiar lineup.
That the Blazers were able to come away with two wins at home will obscure the fact that they still aren’t playing very well. If we take away Brandon Roy’s magical fourth quarter in Game 4, we find that the Mavericks outscored the Blazers by 13 points over 7 quarters of play. The Blazers are still left with just one lineup that has been successful over a significant stretch in more than one game.
The table bel0w shows the same lineup information for the Mavericks, covering the last three games.
|Lineup||Minutes||Poss. For||Poss. Opp||Points For||Points Opp||ORtg.||DRtg.||Net|
|Kidd - Stevenson - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler||26.13||42||41||41||37||97.6||90.2||+7.4|
|Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler||17.06||30||32||36||45||120.0||140.6||-20.6|
|Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood||18.30||31||31||47||39||151.6||125.8||+25.8|
|Barea - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood||9.75||18||19||18||14||100.0||73.7||+26.3|
|Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Chandler||11.00||21||19||31||19||147.6||100.0||+47.6|
|Kidd - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Haywood||9.00||17||14||19||13||111.8||92.9||+18.9|
|Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Haywood||7.55||13||13||10||12||76.9||92.3||-15.4|
|Kidd - Barea - Terry - Nowitzki - Haywood||7.20||12||12||15||8||125.0||66.7||+58.3|
|Kidd - Barea - Stojakavic - Nowitzki - Haywood||4.37||8||9||11||13||137.5||144.4||-6.9|
|Kidd - Terry - Stojakavic - Marion - Chandler||4.59||8||7||7||11||87.5||157.1||-69.6|
|Barea - Terry - Marion - Nowitzki - Chandler||5.23||9||10||3||11||33.3||110.0||-76.7|
The Grays (the Jason Kidd – Jason Terry – Shawn Marion – Dirk Nowitzki – Tyson Chandler lineup we identified as a key factor in Game 1) have been ineffective to say the least, being outscored by nine points over a span of a little more than 17 minutes. This is one of the player combinations Rick Carlisle relies on in crunch time, which makes it unsurprising that Dallas has struggled late in games (the Mavericks have been outscored by 22 over the last two fourth quarters).
That ineffectiveness shouldn’t be a huge concern for the Mavericks. Most of their negative differential comes from a roughly five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of Game 4, when they were outscored by 13 points due to Roy’s hot hand and their own failures to execute on offense. Over that stretch, Roy scored 12 points and assisted on two other baskets, while the Mavericks couldn’t create a single shot attempt for Nowitzki, turned the ball over twice, and attempted five long jumpshots.
Roy’s explosion has changed the series, but that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent course correction. The Mavericks have still been the better team for most of the four games, narrative intrigue be damned. Additionally, his performance could have some unintended side-effects. When Roy was producing less, his role in the Blazers’ offense was defined. Tonight, Nate McMillan will have to decide how much to let what happened in Game 4 change the way the Blazers attack the Mavericks. This could potentially be good news for Dallas; Roy seems unlikely to produce at the same level, but will probably see more minutes and use more possessions. He’s has been a shell of his former self for all but the most recent 15 minutes of this season. He was largely the difference the Blazers were able to even the series, but those 15 minutes are not a large enough sample size to convince me he’s ready to pull that off two more times.
I realize I’m looking at two tough losses with rose-colored glasses; I can’t help it. After two close losses in Portland, everywhere I look I see roses.