Hoosiers In The NBA: The Correlation Between Charlotte Wins And Zeller’s Plus/Minus

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

The Portland Trail Blazers took care of business on Friday night as they finished off the Los Angeles Clippers to win their first round series in six games. Now they advance to face the top-seeded Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals, which starts on Sunday at 3:30pm EST.

Also happening on Sunday is game seven of the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat. The Hornets were unable to closeout the series at home and now must again win in Miami if they want to continue playing this season.

So for today’s edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to focus on the first round matchups (mostly Charlotte-Miami) and tomorrow I’ll make a separate article previewing the Trail Blazers’ second round matchup with the Warriors.


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Series Tied 3-3)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes.

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

Game 3: Charlotte 96, Miami 80

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-8 FG)(4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Game 4: Charlotte 89, Miami 85

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

Game 5: Charlotte 90, Miami 88

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 4 points (1-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

Game 6: Miami 97, Charlotte 90

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-5 FG)(4-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, turnover, personal foul, 18 minutes.

With the series tied and heading for a winner-take-all game seven, I wanted to go over one of the most interesting trends in this series: player plus/minus.

The chart below shows every Hornet player who has played at least 50 minutes in this series and also shows the combined plus/minus during Charlotte wins and Charlotte losses:

CHA Wins CHA Losses Total
Player (+/-) Minutes (+/-) Minutes (+/-) Minutes
Jeremy Lin (+40) 95 (-26) 75 (+14) 170
Cody Zeller (+42) 68 (-30) 52 (+12) 120
Courtney Lee (+27) 114 (-24) 115 (+3) 229
Frank Kaminsky (-4) 87 (+5) 73 (+1) 160
Al Jefferson (-21) 69 (-22) 80 (-43) 149
Kemba Walker (-1) 112 (-44) 113 (-45) 225
Marvin Williams (+11) 103 (-48) 92 (-37) 195
Spencer Hawes (+24) 42 (+1) 11 (2 games) (+25) 53
Nic Batum (+2) 25 ( 1 game) (-62) 89 (-60) 114

Here are the things that stand out to me:

  • It’s very interesting that Charlotte’s two stars (Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson) both have a negative plus/minus regardless of the game being a win or loss for the Hornets. I’ll give a pass to Walker because the difference in his plus/minus is still huge, however nothing seems to change for Jefferson on a game-by-game basis.
  • Spencer Hawes technically makes the biggest positive impact for the Hornets as he has had a positive plus/minus in four of the five games he has played ( he was -1 when he played four minutes of garbage time during game one). However, I think that has more to do with the fact that he always plays while the top two players on this list are also on the court.
  • Frank Kaminsky wins the award for most confusing results as he has a negative plus/minus during wins and a positive plus/minus during losses. The reason for this is that he has had both his best and worst plus/minus games during wins, thus canceling each other out.
  • Many experts on TV name Marvin Williams the x-factor for Charlotte and these stats do back it up. However, if we go game-by-game, we’ll see that he’s had four no-show games (during all three losses and one win). While he is a key player, the Hornets have won a game with him going scoreless on five shot attempts so he isn’t pivotal.

That leaves us with the two players who I believe are the most important when it comes to deciding Charlotte’s outcome: Jeremy Lin and Cody Zeller. Here is a game-by-game breakdown of both of their plus/minus:

  • Game 1 (L by 32): Lin -12, Zeller -20
  • Game 2 (L by 12): Lin +3, Zeller +0
  • Game 3 (W by 16): Lin +17, Zeller +18
  • Game 4 (W by 4): Lin +17, Zeller +20
  • Game 5 (W by 2): Lin +6, Zeller +4
  • Game 6 (L by 7): Lin -17, Zeller -10

So why is it that plus/minus favors these two? It has to due with the specific roles each have and whether or not they fill them exceptionally well during a specific game.

Lin’s role is to be the primary ball-handler for the second team and secondary ball-handler for the starters during crunch time, taking some defensive pressure away from Walker. Zeller’s role is to play pick-and-roll with the ball-handler on offense and anchor the paint on defense.

Because of the nature of their roles, Lin ends up with flashier stats than Zeller, but the Hornets need both of them playing at their best in order to succeed. So when you are watching Game seven on Sunday at 1pm EST, pay attention to those two players. How Charlotte plays with them on the court will determine whether or not the Hornets will be winning their first playoff series since 2002.


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers (Portland wins 4-2)

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

Game 2: Los Angeles 102, Portland 81

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-1 FG), 1 minute.

Game 3: Portland 96, Los Angeles 88

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Game 4: Portland 98, Los Angeles 84

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-0 FG), assist, steal, 1 minute.

Game 5: Portland 108, Los Angeles 98

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-0 FG), rebound, 1 minute.

Game 6: Portland 106, Los Angeles 103

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Let’s take a look back at my predicted stats for Vonleh and what his final stats were for the Clippers series:

  • Predicted Stats: 1.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 0.33bpg, 37.5% FG, 5.7mpg.
  • Actual Stats: 0.0ppg, 0.8rpg, 0.5apg, 0.50spg, 0.0% FG, 2.5mpg.

A deer-in-the-headlights performance during game one seemingly doomed Noah Vonleh to only play garbage time minutes in the playoffs. Yet with a new series and a new set of matchups just around the corner, maybe there is still hope for Vonleh to play more meaningful playoff minutes. We’ll go more in-depth tomorrow.

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Recapping Zeller’s Impact At The End Of Game 5

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

In honor of a monumental game five victory for Cody Zeller and the Charlotte Hornets, this whole edition of Hoosiers In The NBA will be all about the final six minutes of the fourth quarter and how Zeller made a huge impact numerous times during that period:


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Charlotte leads 3-2)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes. (-20 plus/minus)

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes. (0 plus/minus)

Game 3: Charlotte 96, Miami 80

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-8 FG)(4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 26 minutes. (+18 plus/minus)

Game 4: Charlotte 89, Miami 85

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 21 minutes. (+20 plus/minus)

Game 5: Charlotte 90, Miami 88

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 4 points (1-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

It was a really weird game for Cody Zeller.

Due to foul trouble and a minor injury, Zeller only played a total of six minutes for the first three and a half quarters. But the former IU big man made up for it by playing the final 15 minutes and proved to be the Charlotte Hornets’ unsung hero, especially during the final six minutes.

Every major play for the Hornets during that final half of the fourth quarter had Zeller’s fingerprints all over it. Whether it was a critical screen, or a 50-50 no call at the end, Zeller’s presence altered each outcome in Charlotte’s favor.

In fact, Zeller assisted on the Hornets’ four biggest shots of the fourth quarter without recording a single assist on any of them. Don’t believe me? Well here’s the rundown:

  1. 5:18 left in 4th quarter – Nic Batum had finally made his first bucket of the game just two minutes prior and was starting to feel confident. However, Justise Winslow was draped all over him and wouldn’t allow separation. Zeller’s screen held up Winslow just long enough to let Batum run around the screen and fire off a confident jumper that gave the Hornets their first lead of the fourth quarter at 80-78.
  2. 3:06 left in 4th quarter – A Luol Deng three-pointer gave the Heat the 84-82 advantage but on the next possession the lead went right back to the Hornets thanks to multiple screens by Zeller. Kemba Walker went right on a Zeller screen at the top of the key but Josh Richardson recovered very quickly. Instead of trying to get a shot off before Richardson could contest it, Walker threw it back to the top of the key to a wide open Marvin Williams, who got open after using Zeller’s next screen to get free of Deng.
  3. 2:05 left in 4th quarter – Back-to-back Dwyane Wade jumpers not only extended the Heat’s lead to 88-85, but they also got the home crowd rocking as momentum seemed to be fully on Miami’s side. That’s why Jeremy Lin’s long two-pointer (he barely stepped on the line) was so huge as he used yet another Zeller screen at the top of the key to get the Hornets within one point.
  4. 0:25.2 left in 4th quarter – All the credit in the world to Courtney Lee for grabbing the offensive rebound and then hitting the game-winning three. But do you know how Lee was able to get that offensive rebound? Well the answer is that Wade, who was guarding Lee, abandoned him to prevent Zeller from getting a potential tip-in after Zeller completely boxed out Richardson right under the basket.

Zeller also proved pivotal twice in the five seconds as he prevented Wade from tying the game and caught the in-bound pass to make time expire.

As for whether or not Zeller fouled Wade is up to interpretation. Sure Zeller didn’t go perfectly vertical on his jump, but Wade forced the contact on purpose to try and draw a foul and even embellished getting hit in the face (which he didn’t). At the end of the day it was 50-50 call that went against the Heat.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers (Portland leads 3-2)

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

Game 2: Los Angeles 102, Portland 81

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-1 FG), 1 minute.

Game 3: Portland 96, Los Angeles 88

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Game 4: Portland 98, Los Angeles 84

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Game 5: Portland 108, Los Angeles 98

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-0 FG), rebound, 1 minute.

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Hornets Tie Playoff Series And Zeller’s Improvement From Two Years Ago

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

Monday saw both the Charlotte Hornets and the Portland Trail Blazers even up their playoff series and also saw momentum swing in their favor. Let’s see how both series are progressing after four games:

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Series Tied 2-2)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes. (-20 plus/minus)

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes. (0 plus/minus)

Game 3: Charlotte 96, Miami 80

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-8 FG)(4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 26 minutes. (+18 plus/minus)

Game 4: Charlotte 89, Miami 85

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 21 minutes. (+20 plus/minus)

It was just four days ago that many thought the Miami Heat were well on their way to sweeping the Charlotte Hornets. After all, the Heat had won the first two games by breaking multiple team playoff records and the Hornets were a defensive mess who now had to play without their do-it-all wing Nic Batum.

Now the Heat return to Miami, but instead of preparing for their second round matchup they are frantically searching for a solution to the Hornets’ new rotation.

Charlotte Head Coach Steve Clifford matched Miami’s size by rotating Marvin Williams over to small forward (in place of Batum) and starting Frank Kaminsky at power forward. In addition, Clifford had Al Jefferson replace Cody Zeller as the starting center so Jefferson could add some offense to the first unit and Zeller could add some defense to the second unit.

Every move has worked as not only have the Hornets tied the series but their defense has also returned to form, holding a Heat team that averaged 119 points in the first two games to just 82.5 points per game over the last two.

Maybe the biggest surprise is how well Zeller has played despite losing his spot in the starting lineup. Just take a look at his stats through four playoff games and compare it to his averages during his first playoff series (which was also against the Heat) where his team was swept in four games:

  • Cody Zeller’s 2014 Playoff Averages (4 games): 2.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 0.5apg, 0.75bpg, 0.5tpg, 0.8fpg, 33.3% FG, 50.0% FT, 13.3mpg.
  • Cody Zeller’s 2016 Playoff Averages (4 games): 9.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 0.3apg, 0.25bpg, 0.8tpg, 3.5fpg, 59.1% FG, 84.6% FT, 20.3mpg.

They might not be the flashiest stats, but they are a monumental improvement from what he contributed just two years ago. But it’s not just the boxscore stats that make him an irreplaceable presence for the Hornets. It’s the impact he has on the game, as the Hornets have outscored the Heat by a combined 38 points over the last two games when he’s been on the court.

Offensively he’s been the equivalent of a fullback or an offensive lineman. He has been able to set perfectly placed screens to get guards Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, and Kemba Walker the space they need to either drive to the basket or get an uncontested three-point attempt. He has also improved on rolling to the basket on pick-and-roll plays and as a result has scored the majority of his baskets on these plays.

Defensively, Zeller has always been an asset but he has really proved his worth in this series. While he’s at a weight disadvantage when guarding other centers, his quickness, athleticism, and length allow him recover very quickly. So if an opposing big man backs Zeller down, the former All-American at IU is able eliminate any separation almost immediately. Zeller has used these three traits to stop slashers like Dwyane Wade and Goran Dagic in their tracks, and recently in game four he used them to contest more than a few three-point attempts that would have been wide open.

It’s because of all of these factors that Clifford still has Zeller and not Jefferson playing center during crunch time. As a result, Zeller is actually earning more minutes coming off the bench than he was when he was starting.

Game five may decide the series as a Hornets’ win would give them the opportunity to win the series at home. Just know that when Wednesday’s game is on the line, Zeller will be on the court and his play will be one of the major keys that will determine the outcome.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers (Series Tied 2-2)

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

Game 2: Los Angeles 102, Portland 81

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-1 FG), 1 minute.

Game 3: Portland 96, Los Angeles 88

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Game 4: Portland 98, Los Angeles 84

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

Even though Noah Vonleh didn’t leave the bench again, things are looking great for his him and his Portland Trail Blazers.

While it is unfortunate that Vonleh is only able to see the floor during blowouts, the likelihood of blowouts has greatly increased after Chris Paul left game four with a broken hand. Add in that Blake Griffin is banged up and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Los Angeles Clippers end up losing the next two games.

Whether or not Vonleh has a better chance at playing meaningful minutes in a potential second round matchup with the Golden State Warriors is yet to be seen, but it’s always good to have more opportunities.

 

Zeller Shines As Hornets Earn First Playoff Win Since 2002

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

Both the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers won critical game threes on Saturday, but only one of those games featured a former Hoosier playing in the game.

With not much to report on in regards to Noah Vonleh, today’s edition of Hoosiers In the NBA focuses on Cody Zeller as he continues to play a bigger role than I expected at the start of the series. Let’s check out how he did on Saturday:

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Miami leads 2-1)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes.

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

Game 3: Charlotte 96, Miami 80

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-8 FG)(4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Despite losing his starting spot to Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller proceeded to have his best playoff game yet as the Charlotte Hornets beat the Miami Heat to earn the franchise’s first playoff win in 14 years*.

(*technically you could say first playoff win ever since the last Hornets team to win a playoff game is the same team that is now the New Orleans Pelicans, but the NBA has given the Hornets the right to keep its city history)

Zeller’s benching had less to do with his performance and more to do with balancing the team. With second-leading scorer Nic Batum out indefinitely, Head Coach Steve Clifford needed more scoring in the starting lineup so he moved up Jefferson. There could have been an argument for Zeller just switching to power forward (which went to rookie Frank Kaminsky) but Kaminsky more than proved his worth by scoring 15 points, nine of which came during a game-changing 18-0 run in the third quarter.

Instead, Zeller responded with playoff career-highs in points (12), rebounds (8), and minutes (26). He also played a huge role in the first half as Jeremy Lin’s pick-and-roll partner. Lin scored 13 of his team-high 18 in the first half with almost all of those points coming off Zeller screens. Zeller also finished with the best plus/minus of any player during Saturday’s game as Charlotte outscored Miami by 18 points when Zeller was on the court.

Maybe what was most impressive, and encouraging for the long haul, was how well Zeller and Kaminsky played together. Although they only played 14 minutes on the court together, the results were outstanding as during that time the Hornets outscored the Heat 37-20, or basically the final scoring margin.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers (Los Angeles leads 2-1)

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

Game 2: Los Angeles 102, Portland 81

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-1 FG), 1 minute.

Game 3: Portland 96, Los Angeles 88

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: DNP – coach’s decision

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Zeller Fades Quickly After Fast Start

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

Things aren’t looking good for Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh as both see their respective teams trailing 2-0 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This weekend now becomes a must-win for both of their teams as each play their first home playoff game. But for right now, let’s recap what happened on Wednesday:

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Miami leads 2-0)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes.

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

Things could not have started any better for Cody Zeller.

The former All-American at Indiana scored the Charlotte Hornets’ first five points and had a total of seven before taking his first breather at the 5:01 mark of the first quarter. Yet it was the variety of his scores that was most impressive. In order: he made a 20-footer, split two free throws, drove right at blockmaster Hassan Whiteside and converted a driving layup, and made a pull-up jumper from around the foul line.

Unfortunately, things would go south very fast for both Zeller and the Hornets. Zeller scored just one more point and played as many minutes the final three quarters as he did in the first quarter.

So how did Zeller go from a potential breakout game in the playoffs to now possibly losing playing time going forward? Here are the three factors that caused this weird scenario:

  1. As good as Zeller was in the first quarter, Al Jefferson was even better in the second quarter. It was a vintage performance from one of the few remaining traditional big men in the NBA as Big Al scored 16 points in the second quarter alone and did so on 8 of 9 shooting. Jefferson finished with 25 points on 12 of 17 shooting and also had seven rebounds.
  2. With Jefferson feeling it on offense, the margin of error became very slim for Zeller as Jefferson is still the better player when both are playing at their best. So the fact that Zeller proceeded to pick up two quick fouls when he returned in the second quarter had him right back on the bench. After a relatively clean first game, Zeller’s foul problems showed up at the worst possible time
  3. Yet despite still being within striking distance midway through the fourth quarter, Hornets’ Head Coach Steve Clifford chose to have neither Jefferson nor Zeller on the court and instead opted for reserve stretch-forward Spencer Hawes. I questioned the move in the moment, but in retrospect I admit to being wrong as it was a necessary gamble. The Hornets transitioned into becoming more of a free-flowing offense this past season, going with less post-ups and taking more three-pointers. However, Charlotte hasn’t been able to buy a three-point basket in this series having gone a combined 7 of 33 (21.2%) including 1 of 16 (6.3%) from deep in game two. Hawes may not be as good of a post scorer as Jefferson or as good of a defender as Zeller, but he’s a 35.3% career three-point shooter and shot 37.3% this past season. It’s become painfully clear the Hornets need to make threes in this series and that means this probably isn’t the last time we’ll hear from Hawes.

Whether or not there will be a change that affects Zeller is still to be determined, but after getting smacked by the Heat for the second time in a row, there needs to be some kind of change if the Hornets want to turn this series around.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers (Los Angeles leads 2-0)

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

Game 2: Los Angeles 102, Portland 81

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-1 FG), 1 minute.

Unlike game one, Noah Vonleh was restricted to only playing in garbage time during game two, where he almost joined the playoff “Trillion Club” (a term by Mark Titus for when a player logs one minute in a game but records no other stats) but missed it by attempting a field goal, which he missed.

As the series now shifts to Portland there is still a small amount of hope left that Vonleh may still see more meaningful minutes in this series. However, even playing at home might not be enough to convince Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts to place Vonleh in the playing rotation especially after seeing reserve Chris Kaman get Vonleh’s potential minutes on Wednesday.

Vonleh needs to take this experience (or lack of) and use it to motivate him going forward so he never has to be in this position again. He has the talent to be a playoff contributor but at the moment it seems that he’s not even close.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Zeller One Of The Few Bright Spots During Hornets’ Blowout Loss

Both Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh kicked off their respective playoff series on Sunday but unfortunately both ended in embarrassment. The Miami Heat obliterated Zeller’s Charlotte Hornets 123-91 and the Los Angeles Clippers demolished Vonleh’s Portland Trail Blazers 115-95.

This week I’m going to give my observations regarding each of their performances. I’ll be doing the same for every playoff game that either play (thankfully both of them play on the same nights) until both have been eliminated from the playoffs. When that happens the following Monday will be my “End Of The Season” Report Card article.

I hope you all enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs. Now let’s see how both played on Sunday:

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes.

The Miami Heat were literally the living embodiment of their logo (a basketball with flames) when they poured in 41 points in the first quarter on 68.2% (15 of 22) shooting. The Charlotte Hornets never recovered and were run right out of the arena.

It was the kind of loss that makes one revaluate their strategy going forward. Will the Hornets be more likely to abandon both Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson in favor of putting five shooters on the floor?

Head Coach Steve Clifford has until Wednesday to make a decision but if I had to guess I would lean towards the Hornets not making drastic changes for two reasons:

  1. The Heat will not have a better shooting performance in the rest of these playoffs, let alone this series. Specifically, Luol Deng will not have another game where he scores 31 points one 11 of 13 shooting. Deng and Hassan Whiteside were the catalysts behind the dominant first quarter (Deng had 13 points on 5 of 5 shooting and Whiteside had 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting). It’s possible both could do it again but there’s no way it will happen at the same time again.
  2. The Hornets were the second best team in the NBA this season in limiting opponents from grabbing offensive rebounds and fifth in the NBA in grabbing defensive rebounds. On Sunday the Heat grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and held the Hornets to just 21 defensive rebounds. Take into account that at least five of Miami’s offensive boards bounced off a Charlotte player’s hands and I would definitely bet this won’t happen again.

As for Zeller, his playing time might actually increase as this series progresses.

On a dark day for Charlotte, Zeller was one of the team’s lone bright spots. Not only did he set playoff career-highs for points and rebounds, but he was also one of the few Hornets who played solid defense (well at least for three quarters). Every time Dwyane Wade drove to the basket, Zeller matched him stride for stride and prevented him from attempting a layup against him. Unfortunately it didn’t matter as Wade either threw it back out and found an open jump shooter or made a tough runner or floater with Zeller in his face.

But it was a stretch during the third quarter that has me convinced we may be seeing more of Zeller on the floor. With the offense collapsing three minutes into the third quarter, the Hornets ran three consecutive offensive plays for Zeller, which resulted in two made baskets (would have been three baskets if not for a bad pass by Kemba Walker trying to feed Zeller in the paint). Zeller’s defense is so much better than Jefferson’s that if Zeller can score in double-figures regularly then Zeller could see his playing time jump up from 24 minutes per game to 30 or 32.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers

Game 1: Los Angeles 115 123, Portland 95

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, steal, personal foul, 7 minutes.

I stated in my playoff preview last week that Noah Vonleh could realistically see meaningful minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers because more than likely one of the frontcourt starters would get in foul trouble. While this did happen when Maurice Harkless picked up two quick fouls, Vonleh wasn’t the replacement as instead Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts went smaller and subbed in Allen Crabbe.

However, Stotts did let Vonleh see the floor in the first quarter as he subbed him in for Al-Farouq Aminu just a few minutes later and Vonleh proceeded to play the final four minutes of the quarter.

Those four minutes would be the only meaningful minutes Vonleh would see on Sunday and you can’t blame Stotts after Vonleh performed like a deer caught in the headlights.

A minute after coming into the game, Vonleh got a pass at the top of the key and with no one guarding him he drove to the basket. That proved to be a bad idea as DeAndre Jordan easily stuffed Vonleh as he tried to go hard to the rim. To add insult to injury, the play resulted in a jump ball situation which Vonleh lost to Chris Paul (who is 10 inches shorter). He would get the ball one more time in the quarter with nobody guarding him and it resulted in a terribly executed running hook shot that had no chance of going in the basket.

To be fair to Vonleh, it was his first experience playing in the playoffs. With that being said, it was not an encouraging first impression.

 

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Playoff Previews For Zeller’s Hornets And Vonleh’s Trail Blazers

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


As promised earlier in the week, here are the previews for both Cody Zeller’s Charlotte Hornets and Noah Vonleh’s Portland Trail Blazers. I’ll give my thoughts on what you can expect from both of them during their first round matchups and also give a roster breakdown of both their team and the opposing team. And as always I’ll go out on a limb and actually predict their stats for that series just to see how close or how far off I end up being afterward. I hope you enjoy and look forward to more playoff coverage both on this blog and on Twitter for as long as a former Indiana Hoosier is still playing in the playoffs. Now let’s break down these series:

 


Eastern Conference 1st Round: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs. (3) Miami Heat

Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2

Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 5:30pm EST)

Probable Starting Lineups:

Charlotte Hornets:

C – Cody Zeller: 8.7ppg (52.9% FG/10.0% 3FG/75.4% FT), 6.2rpg, 1.0apg

PF – Marvin Williams: 11.7ppg (45.2% FG/40.2% 3FG/83.3% FT), 6.4rpg, 1.4apg

SF – Nicolas Batum: 14.9ppg (42.6% FG/34.8% 3FG/84.9% FT), 6.1rpg, 5.8apg

SG – Courtney Lee: 9.6ppg (45.4% FG/37.8% 3FG/83.9% FT), 2.6rpg, 1.7apg

PG – Kemba Walker: 20.9ppg (42.7% FG/37.1% 3FG/84.7% FT), 4.4rpg, 5.2apg

Key Bench Players – Al Jefferson (12.0ppg, 6.4rpg), Jeremy Lin (11.7ppg), Jeremy Lamb (8.8ppg), Frank Kaminsky (7.5ppg)

Miami Heat:

C – Hassan Whiteside: 14.2ppg (60.6% FG/65.0% FT), 11.8rpg, 0.4apg, 3.7bpg

F – Joe Johnson: 12.2ppg (43.9% FG/38.3% 3FG/83.1% FT), 3.6rpg, 3.9apg

F – Luol Deng: 12.3ppg (45.5% FG/34.4% 3FG/75.5% FT), 6.0rpg, 1.9apg

SG – Dwyane Wade: 19.0ppg (45.6% FG/15.9% 3FG/79.3% FT), 4.1rpg, 4.6apg

PG – Goran Dragic: 14.1ppg (47.7% FG/31.2% 3FG/72.7% FT), 3.8rpg, 5.8apg

Key Bench Players – Justice Winslow (6.4ppg, 5.2rpg), Josh Richardson (6.6ppg, 46.1% 3FG), Gerald Green (8.9ppg), Amar’e Stoudemire (5.8ppg)

What To Expect:

Cody Zeller is going to have his hands full as his primary mission this series is to prevent Hassan Whiteside from being an offensive factor.

While defending Whiteside will be a challenge, it could have been worse as Zeller would have guarded Chris Bosh if he was available.  Bosh presented a big problem for Zeller as the perennial All-Star is able to draw bigger defenders out of the paint because of his lethal mid-range game and above average three-point shooting.

Whiteside won’t move very far from the post except to set screens, which means Zeller can stay close to the basket and help guard the rim against one of the better slashing teams in the NBA. His help defense will be a necessity on Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic drives.

The key for Zeller during this series will be to stay out of foul trouble. The former Hoosier has done a better job lately of avoiding fouls but still ended the season with a career-high 2.8 fouls per game. The Hornets could still beat the Heat by simply outshooting them, but when the shots don’t fall Charlotte cannot afford to have Zeller on the bench with foul trouble.

Because so much will be asked of Zeller defensively, I expect Hornets’ Head Coach Steve Clifford to consistently switch Zeller in and out with Al Jefferson for offensive and defensive situations. That doesn’t mean Zeller won’t score during this series but expect no more than four or five shots per game.

Zeller won’t produce flashy numbers during this series but his performance will be one of the few main things that could decide who wins this series.

Stat Predictions: 6.5ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.83spg, 1.50 bpg, 47% FG, 28.3mpg


Western Conference 1st Round: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers

Regular Season Series: Clippers won 3-1

Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 10:30pm)

Probable Starting Lineups:

Portland Trail Blazers:

C – Mason Plumlee: 9.1ppg (51.6% FG/64.2% FT), 7.7rpg, 2.8apg

F – Al-Farouq Aminu: 10.2ppg (41.6%/36.1% 3FG/73.7% FT), 6.1rpg, 1.7apg

F – Maurice Harkless: 6.4ppg (47.4% FG/27.9% 3FG/62.2% FT), 3.6rpg, 0.9apg

SG – C.J. McCollum: 20.8ppg (44.8% FG/41.7% 3FG/82.7% FT), 3.2rpg, 4.3apg, 1.2spg

PG – Damian Lillard: 25.1ppg (41.9% FG/37.5% 3FG/89.2% FT), 4.0rpg, 6.8apg

Key Bench Players – Noah Vonleh (3.6ppg, 3.9rpg), Ed Davis (6.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 61.1% FG), Gerald Henderson (8.7ppg), Allen Crabbe (10.3ppg, 39.4% 3FG)

Los Angeles Clippers:

C – DeAndre Jordan: 12.7ppg (70.3% FG/43.0% FT), 13.8rpg, 1.2apg, 2.3bpg

PF – Blake Griffin: 21.4ppg (49.9% FG/72.7% FT), 8.4rpg, 4.9apg

SF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 3.1ppg (45.4% FG/52.6% FT), 2.3rpg, 0.4apg

SG – J.J. Redick: 16.3ppg (48.0% FG/47.5% 3FG/88.8% FT), 1.9rpg, 1.4apg

PG – Chris Paul: 19.5ppg (46.2% FG/37.1% 3FG/89.6% FT), 4.2rpg, 10.0apg, 2.1spg

Key Bench Players – Jamal Crawford (14.2ppg), Jeff Green (11.7ppg, 4.2rpg), Wesley Johnson (6.9ppg), Austin Rivers (8.9ppg), Cole Aldrich (5.5ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.1bpg)

What To Expect:

Noah Vonleh has ended up playing even less than I expected at the end of the season, and some things I’ve read are suggesting he may only see the court during these playoffs if any of the games end up being blowouts.

However, if there was ever a matchup that would require Vonleh to play more than expected it would be against the Clippers. Against the frontcourt duo of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, I expect multiple games where the Trail Blazers’ big men get in foul trouble and Head Coach Terry Stotts will need to rely on Vonleh for spot minutes.

If Vonleh does find himself in that situation, he’ll have a prime opportunity to show the coaching staff that he’s improving. If he can hit a three-pointer early, it would force either Griffin or Jordan to leave the paint to guard him, leaving driving lanes for Damian Lillard to slash and kick out.

Of course, it’s very possible this situation never happens in this series. But there’s a better chance of Vonleh playing meaningful playoff minutes than most people might think.

Stat Predictions: 1.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 0.33 bpg, 37% FG, 5.7mpg