There's just eight games left in the 2016-17 NBA season for the Boston Celtics and now that they are locked in for postseason play it seems coach Brad Stevens' playoff rotation is coming to light. Based off of three games in the past week and a half against (likely) Eastern conference playoff squads the Celtics went 3-0, but each game was a hard fought victory and the C's were running with a full bid of health so we got a good idea at how Stevens will orchestrate his rotation in the playoffs.
First we know the starting lineup is going to get a lot of run. In the three matchups in question Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford all played between 30 and 40 minutes in each game. No surprise there since those are the four best players on the Celtics and obviously they're going to be on the court as much as possible. The fifth starter, Amir Johnson, averaged exactly 24 mpg (minutes per game) - a slight bump from the 20.2 he's averaged all season. This change in part beacause coach Brad was probably trying to keep some miles off of the 11-year vet during the course of the season and also because Amir's impact on the floor as of late. Via Scott Souza of the Metro West Daily News:
While Johnson's contributions don't always light up a stat sheet, his true impact is how the Celtics are generally a better team whenever he is on the court. He has an even or positive plus-minus in 11 of the past 12 games, including a plus-19 in a four-point win over the Heat Sunday, and a plus-26 in a 10-point win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Johnson has played more games this season than any other Celtic (73), and that starting unit that he serves as anchor for has only played a total of 31 games at full strength this season - they're 24-7 in those contests.
#Celtics coach Brad Stevens on playoff rotations: Five guys who start the game are going to play a lot. Marcus Smart’s going to play a lot.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) March 22, 2017
Marcus Smart has been the Celtics 6th man all season and that won't change heading into the postseason. He's averaged 30 mpg this season and will probably reign in somewhere around that number in the playoffs, although in the three matchups vs Ind, Was, and Miami he tallied 24 mpg perhaps due to a slight bump in the time the starters spent on the floor. However it does seem that Stevens is going to the IT & D lineup (the starters plus Smart in place of Amir) more and more often to close out games when he can. It proved fruitful Sunday night in a nailbiter against Miami. Via Jay King of MassLive:
According to NBA.com, that lineup scored 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting (plus eight free throw attempts) over six minutes, while racking up a 133.2 offensive rating, 87.2 defensive rating and 45.9 net rating -- all awesome marks. After the Heat had wiped away a double-digit Boston lead, the IT-and-D group saved the day.
Smart doing these kind of things regularly with the game on the line keeps him the floor in spite of his shooting woes:
Both Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk look to be the only other guys that will consistently see the floor, as neither of them played less than 15 minutes in any of the games that looked like potential playoff matchups. They'll get their minutes and Stevens is willing to let it ride with the hot hand if either one of them is rolling. Olynyk played 31 minutes last week against Indiana as he scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting with 8 boards and 4 assists - Stevens rewards the guys when they produce.
That leaves us with 8-strong in terms of a solid playoff rotation but expect 9 or 10 guys to see the floor with the rest of them getting spotty play. Jonas Jerebko was used more frequently earlier this year, even starting some games, against opponents when Stevens wanted to spread the floor more but that seems less the case now. Jerebko had two 'DNP - coaches decision' in the three games although he logged 12 minutes against Miami, where Stevens was probably trying to drag Hassan Whiteside away from the basket as much as possible to account for Jonas' outside shooting.
Terry Rozier will likely grab a handful of minutes most games. He comes off the bench with a ton of energy and he's a terrific rebounder, particularly for his position, but his erratic shooting and trouble finishing at the rim of late has his minutes taking a nosedive the last couple of weeks:
Terry Rozier's DNP-CD tonight was his first since Jan. 3. Has shot 27.3 percent from the field during March.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) March 23, 2017
That 27.3% is from everywhere, not three. Yikes.
Tyler Zeller logged some minutes in those games the last week-plus, but that's really just Stevens dusting some cobwebs of him by giving him some meaningful minutes just in case he's needed:
Brad Stevens said he wants to get Tyler Zeller reps heading into Playoffs bc the Celtics could very well face a lot of size in postseason.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 23, 2017
With Myles Turner, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, and the aforementioned Whiteside all possible opponents there might be a lot of fouls needed to go around. There'll be more Zeller and/or Jerebko in those matchups.
Gerald Green hasn't played much since the All Star break. He's been inactive or DNP in 11 of the 17 games since the break, but he proved last week he can still heat up in a hurry. Against Phoenix on Friday night he scored 15 points in 12 minutes on 4 of 5 shooting (4-4 from 3) with the other three points coming from the charity stripe. Don't expect regular playing time for him in the postseason but don't be surprised if Stevens goes to him a few times when the Celtics offense looks stagnant. He still has the potential to swing a game or three with his big scoring outbursts if the Celtics make a deep playoff run.
Essentially it looks like the Celtics have eight guys they'll go to regularly in the playoffs, with the other handful of guys getting spotty play depending on matchups, the score, and likely the play of those first eight each night. If you see Jordan Mickey, James Young, or Demetrius Jackson on the floor just know that the C's are either up or down a billion, or something went horribly, horribly wrong.
Photo Credit - HardwoodHoudini.com
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 3/29/2017 01:19:00 PM Tweet Edit