“I am doing better every day,” Sefolosha told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The leg and ankle are feeling good but it is too early to say exactly when I’ll be back on the court.”
I’m unsure whether Sefolosha is just being discreet or actually too far from his return to estimate a date. Obviously, the latter would be much more troubling.
A healthy Sefolosha would be first in line to replace DeMarre Carroll, who signed with the Raptors, in the starting lineup. If Sefolosha can’t go, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kent Bazemore and Justin Holiday are candidates to join Kyle Korver on the wing
Draymond Green at center has carried Warriors to 3-2 Finals lead
The unit got a little more run in Game 2. But Game 3 got away from Kerr as David Lee’s breakout shifted the rotation. Green played just a few seconds at center once Golden State started intentionally fouling late.
So, Kerr boldly started the small lineup in Game 4 and Game 5, ensuring maximum playing time for the group.
The Warriors haven’t looked back since.
Green at center has provided their edge throughout the series. They’re just leaning on it more now.
Here’s how the Warriors have performed in each game with Green at center (yellow) and with all other lineups (blue). The width of the bar represents how much playing time each got.
Green at center
Green at center
Green at center
Green at center
Green at center
This isn’t a small sample, either.
When Green plays center with a four perimeter players – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday and/or Brandon Rush – behind him, the Warriors have dominated.
Green protects the rim, and everyone switches screens. After stops (or the occasional times opponent basket), everyone runs the floor to generate open shots.
Here’s how the lineup has performed since the start of the regular season, per nbawowy!:
Offensive rating: 120.0
Defensive rating: 92.8
Net rating: +27.2
This grouping isn’t just a change of pace. It’s a reliable strength – one the Cavaliers must solve quickly.
The Warriors have now played 367 minutes with Green at center and four wings/guards – a combination of Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush – behind him. The results:
Offensive rating: 119.0
Defensive rating: 93.2
Net rating: +25.8
Thursday, Green was flanked by Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Barnes the entire time.
The Warriors first used the lineup on the final two possessions of regulation.
With five shooters on the court for its final shot, Golden State spread the floor and cleared the lane of any defenders. Curry drove for what appeared to be an open layup, but Kyrie Irving made an incredible block at the rim.
The Warriors stuck with the small group to defend Cleveland’s final possession, which was essentially a one-on-one battle between LeBron James and Iguodala.
The unit reappeared in overtime, and that’s when Golden State went on a run to pull away.
Green drives it all.
Watch how he fortifies the paint defensively and gets the ball going the other direction quickly:
This lineup thrives because Green strong enough defensively to allow the Warriors to play four skilled and fast players behind him. Plus, Green is comfortable running with the rest.
Initially, the Cavaliers had Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson in the game against this group, but they couldn’t capitalize on their size advantage. David Blatt tried to match up by going smaller, inserting James Jones for Mozgov, but that played into Golden State’s hands. That’s a major talent drop for the Cavaliers, and Jones isn’t quick enough to keep up, anyway.
Unlike many small lineups, the Warriors don’t sacrifice defense for offense. The Cavaliers’ only overtime points came on this LeBron pity bucket:
Kevin Pelton of ESPN argues the game didn’t swing because of Golden State’s small lineup, but because of Irving’s injury costing the Cavaliers during a crucial defensive possession.
On the most pivotal play during small ball – Harrison Barnes’ corner 3 (starts 40 seconds into the Green highlight video above) – the Warriors were playing 5-on-4 because Irving couldn’t move. Pelton argues Cleveland, with a foul to give, should have hacked the Warriors to stop the game and get out Irving. Barnes’ open triple was due more to that numbers advantage than a size mismatch.
And that’s true.
But why didn’t the Cavaliers make the correct call to foul?
I’d argue they were too busy scrambling to keep up with Golden State’s up-tempo attack to realize they should have fouled. They just got matched up defensively and had a moment to catch their breaths when Barnes hit the shot.
With Green at center, the Warriors go quickly and pressure opponents into quick decisions.
The Cavaliers, already in a bad spot due to their injury misfortune, couldn’t handle it. Maybe they would have fared better against small ball without that possession. Or maybe they would have fouled if Golden State weren’t pushing the pace.
But the Warriors weren’t waiting to find out.
They’re going to play Green at center and show no mercy.
Draymond Green at center gives Warriors wrinkle necessary to beat Rockets
“The one thing I can tell you is that both teams like to play small,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
Speak for yourself.
“No,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “I hope that Dwight is healthy and we can stay big. I like us playing when we play big. We didn’t have that option tonight with Dwight out.”
The Rockets didn’t show much against the Warriors’ small units with Dwight Howard, who’s battling injury.
Golden State outscored Houston 47-29 in 16 minutes with Draymond Green at center. When Howard was in, it was 12-2 Warriors in three minutes.
In his final six possessions against the Warriors’ small lineup, Howard committed three turnovers, missed a shot and got strongly boxed out by Green after two other Rockets missed.
Green – who finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block – sure enjoyed his last possession against Howard:
The Warriors played 330 minutes entering Game 1 with Green at center and four wings/guards – a collection of Harrison Barnes,Andre Iguodala,Stephen Curry,Klay Thompson,Shaun Livingston,Leandro Barbosa,Justin Holiday andBrandon Rush – behind him. The results have been spectacular:
Offensive rating: 120.4
Defensive rating: 93.0
Net rating: +27.4
All three marks would easily lead the league.
Tuesday, the Warriors kicked it into overdrive on both ends with Green at center:
Offensive rating: 138.2
Defensive rating: 87.9
Net rating: +50.3
It works offensively, because the Warriors have excellent shooters who love to get out in transition. Smaller lineups are faster lineups.
When most teams go small, they sacrifice defense. Not the Warriors.
“Draymond is one of the best defensive players in the league because he can guard low-post guys and perimeter guys,” Kerr said. “He can switch onto James Harden. He can guard Dwight Howard. Doesn’t mean he’s always going to get a stop, but he’s always going to put up a fight, and he’s got a chance.”
Green’s interior defense is excellent, though not unique. Other players can duplicate or even best his ability defend the paint, including teammate Andrew Bogut.
But find another player in Green’s interior-defensive class with his ability to lead the fastbreak, pass and shoot 3-pointers. Some of his defensive peers are lumbering centers who are offensive minuses or, best-case scenario, inside scorers. Green is a floor-spacer.
I think that often gets lost in discussions of Green’s defense. It’s his ability to defend while contributing so much on offense that sets him apart.
Green is the total package, and that shines through when he’s at center (thanks in part to his wonderfully capable perimeter teammates).
Kerr saw it tonight, and that’s why he wants to see more. McHale saw it, too – and that’s why he’s seen enough.
Adjusting for playoff rotations says Warriors and Cavaliers should be favored to reach NBA Finals
The Hawks went 60-22, Cavaliers 53-29, Warriors 67-15 and Rockets 56-26 this season.
How much do those record tell us about those teams entering the conference finals?
Something, but definitely not enough.
Players like Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Love, Dion Waiters, Justin Holiday, Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas all factored into their team’s regular-season results. But – due to injury, trade or shortening of playoff rotations – they likely won’t play a part of the conference finals.
In an attempt to get better data, I’ve used nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only the lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s post-season rotation.
This measure is far from perfect. It doesn’t account for opponent or weigh lineups based on how often they’ll be used in the postseason, and it’s impossible to precisely predict a team’s playoff rotation.
We did this exercise before the playoffs and before the second round. I’ve updated the numbers with second-round results and modified projected rotations where necessary. As always, remember, this is only one data point in a complex picture when evaluating teams.
Here are the conference finalists’ ratings – actual regular-season to projected based on expected rotations:
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Offensive rating: 111.7 to 114.9
Defensive rating: 106.9 to 103.3
Net rating: +4.8 to +11.6
1. Atlanta Hawks
Offensive rating: 109.6 to 110.5
Defensive rating: 103.8 to 103.0
Net rating: +5.8 to +7.5
The big question: Will Kyrie Irving play? This projection assumes he does.
Without Irving, Cleveland actually rates better by this model (114.7 offensive rating/91.4 defensive rating/+23.3 net rating). This doesn’t mean the Cavaliers actually are better without Irving. Of course, they’re not. That stellar play without Irving comes in just 273 minutes, a small sample that was at least partially self-selected by David Blatt. Cleveland surely wouldn’t fare as well if it had to play its Irving-less minutes against the starters of a 60-win team, but that will be the predicament the Cavs would face without him here. This indicates, though, the Cavaliers might fare better than expected without Irving. That’d mean more responsibility for LeBron James, which often works out well. It’s hardly a sure bet, though – just a clue.
In the same vein, even with Irving included for Cleveland, the Hawks’ projected rotation players have play more than 2.5 times as many minutes together as the Cavaliers’. Before the playoffs began, Cleveland looked poised to run through the Eastern Conference. But Kevin Love’s injury threw a wrench into the projections. Not only do the Cavaliers rate worse than with Love, we have less information by which to assess them.
This model does not account for game location, and Atlanta has home-court advantage.
Bottom line: We know the Hawks are good. The Cavaliers – at least those that project to play these Eastern Conference finals – have looked better than Atlanta, but we also know less about them.
1. Golden State Warriors
Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.4
Defensive rating: 101.3 to 97.9
Net rating: +10.4 to +17.5
2. Houston Rockets
Offensive rating: 107.5 to 110.1 to 112.3 to 111.4
Defensive rating: 104.0 to 101.0 to 101.2 to 104.2
Net rating: +3.5 to +9.1 to +11.1 to +7.2
The Warriors’ projection includes includes David Lee and Festus Ezeli, not Marreese Speights, who’s out at least Game 1. If Speights can play, Golden State rates even better on both ends.
As noted by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, the Rockets are the first team since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams to reach the conference finals while being outscored in the postseason. Most teams – at least the ones that avoid injury – see their projection rise as they win during the playoffs, but Houston’s has fallen. The Rockets are still well ahead of their actual regular-season production, though.
One big reason this model underrates Houston: Dwight Howard doesn’t factor as prominently because he missed so much time due to injury. As long as he remains healthy, the Rockets will rely on him more than projected here – and they’ll be better for it.