|Should the Celtics stick with small-ball?|
Although Zeller's struggles are a problem that needs to be figured out, his absence has allowed Brad Stevens to get back to playing more small ball lineups that have shown to be extremely beneficial in the last two games, both of which were blowout wins for the C's. Last night we saw lineups that featured a smaller group that could stretch the floor with shooting and pick apart the opposing defense. Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner stood out on a second unit that took the reins from the struggling starters and took control of the game. These key substitutes put up some outrageous numbers that truly represent how much of an impact that group had on the floor:
Celtics net ratings with key bench guys on the court: Turner: +21.6 Olynyk: +27.9 Jerebko: +23.9. Second unit crazy effective right now.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) November 11, 2015
Although a small sample size, small ball lineups have produced on a level that the more traditional groups have not. Whether that had to do with favorable match-ups or just a hot shooting street, Stevens needs to take a good long look at the personnel he has and how productive they can be when they switch to a lineup that features three-point shooting and space. Turner is at his best when he can break down the defense off the dribble and either finish at the rim or find an open teammate on the perimeter. When Jerebko plays at the four spot he can pull one of the opposing team's bigs away from the paint and drive them crazy with his hustle and energy.
This team plays best when they go small. Giving up some size in order to stretch the floor plays to everyone's strengths and is necessary when you are getting this kind of offensive return. Even more traditional, post-up bigs like David Lee and Amir Johnson can fit into lineups. Johnson is a capable outside shooter and while Lee has not added a three-point shot to his arsenal, more space gives him an opportunity to showcase his elite passing.
Zeller may struggle to find time in this sort of rotation, but that may be a price Stevens is willing to pay when it comes to what is best for the Celtics.
If opponents are going to continue to throw traditional lineups at the small ball Celtics then let them. This team has proven that it has the skills to make them pay. Just ask the Bucks and the Wizards.
Photo Credit: Tom Lynn/AP Photo
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