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.


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