Now, if you’re a sensible person, you probably didn’t watch much of the Bulls as they bludgeoned teams who were bad or not trying (or both) down the stretch of the season. But Cody Westerlund of Locked on Bulls did, and I found this interesting (and can’t find the Hoiberg quotes for it, so take this podcast paraphrasing)
Kind of what Fred Hoiberg has said post-game, he’s settled on a 9-man rotation for the playoffs.
-Rondo and Wade are healthy and thus starting
-Jerian Grant over MCW as the backup point-guard
-Paul Zipser over Denzel Valentine as the primary wing off the bench
-Cristiano Felicio over Joffrey Lauvergne as backup center
Now these...are all correct decisions?
Well, mostly. We know starting the 3 Alphas is bad news, but there’s no way Dwyane Wade is coming off the bench and Fred Hoiberg certainly isn’t the guy to make him do so.
But all those bench options are the right call! Typically you don’t need more than 8 or 9 guys in a playoff game, with off days in-between (in this series there’s three days off between games 2 and 3, ugh)
And maybe Denzel Valentine is the 10th man if Wade isn’t playing a lot of minutes (he’s going to play a lot of minutes).
Now, we’ve seen Fred do all sorts of wacky stuff (I think he calls it ‘coaching’?) throughout the season. As they discussed on that LockedOn podcast, Hoiberg typically prefers Michael Carter-Williams defensively, but he has a weakness against smaller, quicker guards so that mitigates his effectiveness against the likes of Isaiah Thomas. Will he change his mind though, especially after an early-series loss? Possibly. I wouldn’t put it past Hoiberg to play Lauvergne a lot against a small-ball Celtics lineup too because ‘shooting’, either.
For their part, the Celtics are also all healthy after an injury-plagued season. I’ll lift from commenter (and sometimes contributor) Tornado13 on this one:
Their point differential isn’t great. However, injuries are a huge culprit there. Thomas missed 6. Crowder missed 10. Horford missed 14. Bradley missed 27. Crowder and especially Bradley are huge for their defense. Those guys missing so much time was not great.
Seven of their losses came while Horford was out, so they were 46-22 with him. Their point differential is a a little bit better at 2.8 with Horford in the lineup.
The playoffs become more about the starters because you tend to play with less depth. Here are the best 5 man combos with at least 200MP. Boston’s lineup is not scary, but they have a top 10 lineup.
Here’s that lineup, and what we’re likely to see to start the game:
Stretch-5 Kelly Olynyk and defensive ace (if shooting deuce) Marcus Smart are the first off their bench, and on the wings they’ll likely go with the defensive tools of Jaylen Brown, even if he is a Rookie. That’s 8, with Jonas Jerebko likely being the 9th man when Horford moves to the center position.
[I know what you’re thinking: it’s weird that ‘Untouchable’ Terry Rozier doesn’t even play...]
So yes, playoff rotations mean fewer guys playing more minutes, but in this case that helps the Celtics just as much as the Bulls, even if we can believe Fred Hoiberg has finally figured things out.