StatBox Playoff Breakdown: Lopez keeps Nets alive, Atlanta’s turnaround and Westbrook’s replacement

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Opportunity doesn’t knock twice. For the Nets, a banged up Bulls team gave the Nets a chance to stay in this series. Thanks to Brook Lopez, Brooklyn is still alive. Home playoff games afforded the Hawks the chance to reverse their fortunes, but how drastically it turned this series around is astounding. And who will get the opportunity to shine for the Thunder in Russell Westbrook’s absence? All this and more in today’s StatBox playoff breakdown.

You can’t spell Brooklyn without Brook
Brook_Lopez_Headshot
Could Brooklyn’s Monday night’s 110-91 Game 5 victory over Chicago have been about Kirk Hinrich’s absence? Chicago’s banged up players being worn out by a lengthy and rugged series? Brooklyn just playing better overall in an elimination game? Yes to all of the above, but let’s examine the biggest reason why the Nets are still in this series: Brook Lopez.

Brook Lopez’s incredibly strong series is put into context nicely by Beckley Mason. With Joakim Noah limited to under 30 minutes per game, Lopez knows he’ll be facing Chicago defenders he can handle. Lopez has gotten extra minutes (a lot of that has to do with the 51 minutes he played on Saturday), but has responded quite well to the added postseason load someone of his importance of the team should carry.

Lopez Minutes Shots FG % Points Rebounds Blocks FT Attempts FT %
Reg Season 30.4 14.8 52.1 19.4 6.9 2.1 5.3 75.8
Playoffs 37.8 17 49.4 23.6 8 3.4 7.4 89.2

The hallmark of a premier player is performing better in higher leverage situations, such as the playoffs. Lopez has clearly played better in the playoffs, reflected by his scoring, rebounding, ability to get to the line, his ability to block shots on the defensive end and his up-tick in free throw attempts. While Deron Williams’ production has been inconsistent this series, Lopez has been rock solid. It will have to remain that way if Brooklyn wants to extend the series and Lopez’s social life.

The Jekyll & Hyde Hawks
Jeff-Teague-Atlanta-Hawks
An outsider can look at this Indiana-Atlanta series and see nothing abnormal. The home team won each game, seems simple, right? But Monday night’s 11-point Game 4 win by the Hawks was the closest margin of victory in the series. The shift in overall performance from both teams have been extremely abnormal.

Hawks FG % 3 FG % Opp FG Opp 3 FG Reb Dif Turn Dif FTA Dif
Vs IND 49.7 40 46 38.6 -22 -6 -29
@ IND 43.6 38.5 32.7 22.9 14 9 13

The Hawks shot better on the road for some reason, but its field goal defense at home in the ATL has been beyond outstanding. What’s also astounding is how violently the pundulum swung in the rebounding department. Indiana led the league in rebounding differential during the regular season, but out-boarding Atlanta by 11 per game at home is odd. And then to have that swing the other way so that a Pacer team that was +5 in rebounds per game in the regular season was a -7 per game in Atlanta? The free throw differential is bizarre as well.

What Atlanta team will we see on Wednesday in Game 5 in Indiana? The answer is virtually impossible to predict.

What OKC looks like sans Westbrook

WestbrookinjuryIt’s quite rare to have the luxury of messing around and tinkering with a lineup and a rotation, but that’s what the Thunder had on Monday night.

OKC held a 3-0 series lead against Houston in its second game without the injured Russell Westbrook, whose torn meniscus will keep him out the rest of the postseason.

The Thunder nearly completed the sweep in Game 4, but fell short 105-103 in a sloppy affair where each team turned it over 22 times. A few questions emerge for the Thunder regarding what they’ll do without Westbrook in the fold?

  • How will OKC divvy up its minutes at point guard? After splitting minutes between Reggie Jackson (25) and Derek Fisher (24) in Game 3, Oklahoma City went with a smaller lineup on Monday. Jackson played 36 minutes to Fisher’s 29, and Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins played significantly fewer minutes. How Scott Brooks plays this could help determine his team’s fate.
  • Who will take Westbrook’s shots? He took 18.7 per game during the regular season and 20.5 in his pair of playoff games. Thanks, in part, to committing 11 more turnovers in Game 4 than they did in Game 3, the Thunder took 16 fewer shots. Kevin Durant’s shots decreased from 30 to 16, while Jackson took 18 shots (leading the team) on Monday compared to just six in Game Three.

It’s hard to tell what the team will do next, but we here at Sheridan Hoops will be paying close attention to how Oklahoma City tackles its Wesbrook problem going forward.

Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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