By Brian Faith, Knicks Fan Since ‘93
To be the champ, you have to beat the champ. If the Knicks want their shot at dethroning the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat, they’ll first have to slay the team they wrestled the Atlantic Division away from – the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics have had a tumultuous season, losing Rajon Rondo to an ACL injury 38 games into the season, while dealing with a host of other key injuries throughout the year. Their likely starting lineup for Game 1 this weekend has played just 38 minutes together on the floor together. Three-man lineup data can be used to avoid making any conclusions based on the small five-man unit sample size.
Of the Celtics top 50 three-man lineups that have played at least 230 minutes on the court together this season, eight feature three of their five likely starters (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass).
Lineup Minutes NetRtg*
Bradley-Green-Pierce 484 +14.8
Garnett-Green-Pierce 399 +9.3
Bass-Bradley-Pierce 883 +7.4
Bass-Bradley-Green 523 +4.5
Bass-Green-Pierce 475 +4.3
Bass-Garnett-Pierce 877 +4.0
Bradley-Garnett-Pierce 609 +2.7
Bass-Bradley-Garnett 492 +1.6
*NetRtg measures the difference between a lineups offensive and defensive efficiency
As you can see, some of the Celtics’ most heavily used lineup combinations have been deadly. When you consider that for the season, Boston had a NetRtg as a team of just +1.1, the disparity becomes even more glaring.
Doc Rivers knows a thing or two about how to manage rotations during the playoffs. Expect him to shorten his bench with only Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph behind Garnett, and Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Jordan Crawford at the guard/wing spots.
Since Rivers will mostly rely on his starters throughout the series, let’s take a look at each individual match up with Pierce, Garnett, Bradley, Green, and Bass.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images