Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (7:00ET on TNT): Series tied 2-2
- Stat: In Philadelphia’s 92-83 game 4 win over Boston, they out-rebounded the Celtics 52 to 38 and collected 17 offensive boards.
- Take: Getting pounded on the glass like this is something the Celtics are used to. They had one of the lowest offensive rebounding rates of all time during the regular season and ranked as the 28th best overall rebounding team in the league. Philly, while far from worldbeaters on the glass before the playoffs, fared better then Boston in both categories, finishing 25th and 19th. So coming into this matchup the Celtics had little reason to worry that their rebounding deficiencies could swing a series against a similarly challenged team like the Sixers; if Boston could at least come close to hanging with Philly here, rebounding wouldn’t be a series-deciding factor. And through games 1, 2, and 3 that was exactly the case, as the Celtics played Philly to an even stalemate with regard to overall rebounds and were just -8 on the offensive glass. That’s not the most telling part of how influential rebounds are to each team’s success, though. In the two Boston wins, they’ve out-rebounded the Sixers by seven and four, respectively. Philly? In their game 2 and game 4 victories, they crushed the Celtics by 11 and 14 on the glass. Obviously, there’s no way to truly know whether or not the rebounding victor will be in position to win each remaining game of this series. But the results of the first four games point to that aspect of this matchup as being one the series’ most important, something the Celtics no doubt expected if they got dominated on the glass the way they often did during the regular season.
LA Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder (9:30 ET on TNT): Thunder lead series 3-1
- Stat: The Los Angeles Lakers’ +/- per 48 minutes in this series with Russell Westbrook on the floor is -15.2. When OKC’s point guard is on the bench, LAL’s +/- jumps 27 points to +11.8.
- Take: The obligatory “small sample size” thing with regard to the Lakers’ performance concerning Westbrook merits mention, as he’s sat for 53 total minutes through the first four games of this series and has played a surprisingly low 34.8 minutes per game thus far. Some of that has to do with the nature of OKC’s blowout game 1 win when he played just 27 minutes, but Westbrook was on the court for just 34 and 35 minutes in games 2 and 3, each of which was decided by a single possession in the final moments. So the margin for statistical variance here is actually smaller than you’d initially expect considering considering Westbrook played a whopping 42.7 minutes per game during the teams’ three regular season outings, a number well above his season-long average of 35.3 minutes a night. This and LA’s woeful performance when Westbrook has been on the floor stands to reason that if Scott Brooks had played his star point guard more in OKC’s 99-96 game 3 loss, this series might already be over. But he didn’t and it’s not, so examining Westbrook’s major, major influence on either end of the floor in this series is still worth examining. Let’s bullet for emphasis and proficiency:
- LAL defensive rating (DRtg) with Russ on floor – 122.0
- LAL DRtg with Russ on bench – 87.3
- LAL offensive rating (ORtg) with Russ on floor – 104.1
- LAL ORtg with Russ on bench – 94.3
- So the Lakers allow 35.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when Westbrook’s on the bench compared to when he’s on the floor, and score 9.8 points more when he’s on the floor compared to when he’s on the bench. This particular Catch-22 for the Lakers, then, is hardly as simple as “we’re better offensively when Westbrook is playing and and worse defensively when Westbrook is playing.” The numbers, clearly, tell us that his individual impact – with respect to both teams – on the game is much bigger on offense than defense, and for that reason and the team’s incurable struggles defensively, the Lakers need to somehow find a way to get him on the bench. Of course that’s easier said than done, considering Westbrook covers point guards and Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake hardly strike fear in the heart or put much pressure on the heart of opposing defenses. Sessions, though, can be a playmaker off the dribble in the pick and roll game that Blake can’t, and attacking – yielding Westbrook fouls most hopefully, but energy and enthusiasm, too – is his and the Lakers’ best bet at limiting Westbrook’s playing time and effectiveness.