NBA Playoff Primer: Monday, April 16th
Our analysts will break down the playoff slate by position, taking a deep dive into game flows to pick out the best players for your daily fantasy sports lineups. Gain an edge in your postseason DFS play here.
Monday, April 16th
Hello Grinders. We have a two-game NBA slate tonight. I’ll be covering the Playoff Primer on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Aaron covers it the rest of the week.
Aaron has been doing a great job with his information overload format and giving you the projections, game logs and analysis you all like. I’m going to format my articles slightly different in a way that works better for me (so sorry if you’ve come to love Aaron’s format). On the days that I’m writing, I’m going to dig deeper in analyzing the previous playoff game(s) and try to get a sense of what the beat writers, coaching staff and players are saying. The playoffs are so dynamic in the sense that teams will make changes to rotations and playing time over the course of a series to adjust for their opponent, that maybe we can pinpoint areas that the team will adjust before it actually happens.
Let’s dive into the games.
San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors
Line – Golden State (-8) Total: 210.5
2017-2018 Results With Game Flow Logs
November 2nd, 2017 Golden State 112 San Antonio 92
February 10th, 2018 San Antonio 105 Golden State 122
March 8th, 2018: San Antonio 107 Golden State 110
March 19th, 2018: Golden State 75 San Antonio 89
April 14th, 2018: San Antonio 92 Golden State 113
San Antonio Spurs
The Warriors destroyed the Spurs 113-92 in Game 1. Let’s first take a look at the starting lineups:
I included a link to the Game Flow Tracker for Game 1 up above so you can see the fantasy points, minutes and rotations, but I’ve also pasted a copy below. There are a few things that stand out:
The big one is that Rudy Gay started the second half for Kyle Anderson, who was over-matched by Kevin Durant. The second is that the Spurs were down by 23 points to start the 4th quarter, so Popovich pretty much emptied his bench and let Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White and Davis Bertans finish the game as he waved the white flag.
The Warriors were double-teaming LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Spurs weren’t making them pay. The Spurs were 5-of-21 in the paint, and Kyle Anderson couldn’t get anything going as he was scoreless in his 11 minutes. The move to Gay for the second half could be a sign of things to come. It would not shock me if Rudy Gay started Game 2 or continued to get extensive minutes off the bench. Beat writer Jabari Young actually had some good insights about Gay before the series started here. In his article, he predicted Gay would be relied upon in one-on-one situations as the Warriors double-teamed Aldridge, and that’s pretty much what happened. Going into Game 2, I’m likely off Kyle Anderson and would rather play Rudy Gay. You could make the argument this makes Anderson a low-owned GPP play and on a two-game slate, there’s some merit to getting exposure to him as recency bias will be working against him. But you have to think the Spurs will adjust in some way rather than roll out the exact same game plan in Game 2. Beat writer Jeff McDonald also thinks Rudy Gay could draw the start in his article here.
It would also not shock me if Pop did some other tweaks to his lineup to adjust. Patty Mills is 6-to-7 inches shorter than Klay Thompson, so maybe they make a change there. Maybe they start Pau Gasol to help with their shooting woes or lack of second chance points. Either way, it’s clear the Spurs are going to have to do something quick.
Golden State Warriors
Key Injuries – Andre Iguodala (Probable)
Speaking of Klay Thompson, Thompson was lights out in Game 1, shooting an incredible 11-for-13 for 27 points. Meanwhile, the Warriors surprised the world by starting Andre Iguodala at point guard to ease the burden off the shoulders of Quinn Cook and to help defend against the 7-foot wingspan of Dejounte Murray. Iguodala did leave the game briefly with an injury but all reports are that he’s good to go for Game 2.
Assuming no setbacks, I would think the Warriors role out their same starting lineup from Game 1. There’s a really good clip here by beat writer Connor Letourneau of Coach Kerr explaining why he started Iguodala and JaVale McGee. In summary, he wanted his strongest defensive unit to start the game, and it makes sense. Kerr started Iguodala in the Finals a few years back to help defend against LeBron James, and it worked. In the clip, he was also asked about whether Kerr envisions McGee staying in the starting lineup and he said he does as there’s no reason to take him out. There’s also a good article here on the impact McGee had defensively in containing LaMarcus Aldridge down low. Coach Popovich also recognized McGee’s impact offensively as defenders would swarm the other starters, leaving McGee open for easy buckets. McGee finished with an impressive 15 points in just 16 minutes.
I didn’t mean to bury the lede, but Draymond Green and Kevin Durant were both excellent. This type of grind-it-out series really fits Green’s style, and the lack of a “true” point guard only means he’ll have the ball in his hands even more to set up his teammates. He finished with a team-high 11 assists and should approach a triple-double nightly. The Spurs had no answer for Kevin Durant, and even Coach Pop joked that Kyle Anderson is going to need to grow several inches before Game 2 if he has any chance of defending him.
I respect both teams and coaching staffs enough where it would not shock me if the Spurs kept Game 2 close or even pulled off a win. But right now all the momentum and superior talent is clearly on the Warriors’ side.
Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
Line – Philadelphia (-6.5) Total: 211.5
February 2nd, 2018 Miami 97 Philadelphia 103
February 14th, 2018 Miami 102 Philadelphia 104
February 27th, 2018 Philadelphia 101 Miami 102
March 8th, 2018 Philadelphia 99 Miami 108
April 14th, 2018: Miami 103 Philadelphia 130
Key Injuries – None
Despite leading by 4 at the half, the Heat got run off the court in the 3rd and 4th quarters, getting outscored 74 to 43 in the second half. Similar to what I did above, let’s first look at the starting lineups for each team:
Let’s take a look at the Game Flow Tracker to see if anything interesting sticks out:
The big thing we notice is that Hassan Whiteside only played 12 minutes and barely got any run in the second half, finishing the game with just 2 points and 6 rebounds. Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk was going ham and finished with 26 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. Whiteside clearly didn’t show up for this game but also dismissed the gravity of the situation. Here’s a quote by Whiteside from the Sun Sentinel article about the decision to only play him 12 minutes:
“I think coach wanted some change,” Whiteside said about why he thought he played so little. “[Olynyk] was playing well. Of course, I would love to be out there rebounding and blocking shots and be out there with my teammates. But I think K.O. was playing well so coach just wanted to get him out there.”
It will be very interesting to see if Whiteside gets back on the good side of Coach Spo for Game 2, or if he can play well enough where the Heat can’t afford to take him off. At this point I do think Whiteside warrants some tournament ownership simply because of recency bias (this is a similar situation as Kyle Anderson), but it does appear the Heat prefer playing Kelly Olynyk for matchup purposes. I would not include them on the same DFS lineup as they cannibalize each other’s production so you’ll want to take a stand between the two players. Right now I’m on Olynyk’s side.
The other thing to monitor is the health of Goran Dragic. He’s playing through a knee injury and did play 31 minutes, but he wasn’t the best defensively in this game.
Based on the post-game reports I’ve read, the Heat recognize they got beat but also understand it’s just Game 1. Plus it wasn’t like they weren’t in the game. They actually led at halftime and it wasn’t until the 76ers started shooting lights out in the 3rd quarter that things got out of hand. The 76ers shot 47.4% from the field and a ridiculous 64.3% from beyond the arc (18-for-28). The Heat were also out-rebounded 50-to-42. On the season, the 76ers shot 36.9% from beyond the arc so they clearly outperformed in this area in Game 1.
The 76ers’ big adjustment that helped in their blowout victory was the move from Amir Johnson to Ersan Ilyasova to start the second half. Ilyasova finished with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds as neither Hassan Whiteside or Kelly Olynyk could stop him. It’s unclear if he’ll draw the start in Game 2 or if the 76ers will continue rolling out Amir Johnson, but either way he’s the clear big man you want to target on this team while Embiid is out.
Robert Covington was quiet offensively but the team praised him for his defensive work, so he’s going to continue getting minutes regardless of what the box score shows. There were reports pre-game of Dario Saric still dealing with discomfort in his elbow but you wouldn’t have known it the way he played in Game 1, finishing with 20 points and 6 rebounds. Assuming he can play through it, he remains a fine play as long as Embiid is out too as he sees a massive usage bump when Embiid is off the court.
J.J. Redick left the game briefly with a side injury but says he’s fine for Game 2. Redick scored a game-high 28 points and is extremely scoring dependent, but he’s clearly locked in right now. The same can be said of Marco Belinelli, who dropped 25 points and played 33 minutes. He’s going to continue getting massive minutes as it looks like the 76ers are tightening their rotation in the playoffs. Only 8 players received double-digit minutes, and one of them was Markelle Fultz, who only saw 14 minutes.
Ben Simmons was one rebound shy of a triple-double in Game 1, and it’s crazy to think that he did it with James Johnson and Josh Richardson on the other side trying to defend him. He did commit 5 turnovers but he’s arguably got the highest ceiling on this short two-game slate knowing the ball will be in his hands for so much of the game. He led the team with 34 minutes and likely would’ve seen more if this game had stayed closer in the 4th quarter.
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