Hoosiers In The NBA: Gordon Vs Oladipo (Playoff Preview)

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It took until his fourth season, but Victor Oladipo will finally get his first taste of the NBA Playoffs.

Oladipo and the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs starting on Sunday. The Rockets have two former Hoosiers on the team in potential Sixth Man Of The Year Eric Gordon (who had to wait even longer than Oladipo to reach his first playoffs, taking him seven seasons) and rookie Troy Williams.

For this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to go over how Oladipo and Gordon performed this season and how they preformed against each other to help predict how well they’ll play in their first round matchup. I’ll also go over how much I expect Williams to play in the series and also touch on Noah Vonleh and his Portland Trail Blazers’ first round matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Lastly I’ll post the final regular season stats for all six former Hoosiers who played in the NBA this season.


Gordon Vs Oladipo

Neither player would call the 2016-2017 their best statistical season, but both Eric Gordon and Victor Oladipo would still call this their best seasons due to how well their teams performed and what role they had in the success.

Gordon embraced his role of three-point specialist off the bench for Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets and the result was a career-high 246 made three-points on 37.2% shooting. Meanwhile Oladipo went from the main ball-handler in Orlando to being Russell Westbrook’s wing man in Oklahoma City and the jump in open looks helped Oladipo shoot a career-best 36.1% from behind the arc as he was the second-leading scorer for the Thunder.

Taking a look at how they played against each other this season only highlights how much both had success from deep this season:

Eric Gordon vs the Oklahoma City Thunder: 19.0ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.8apg, 0.25spg, 0.25bpg, 1.5tpg, 2.3fpg, 39.7% FG, 40.5% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 34.3mpg. (four games)

Victor Oladipo vs the Houston Rockets: 18.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.25spg, 0.00bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.8% FG, 46.7% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 37.3mpg.  (four games)

While I don’t expect both to hit above 40% from long range during this series, I do believe we’ll see multiple clutch threes from one or both. With both Westbrook and James Harden gathering so much attention, it may fall on a supporting player like Gordon or Oladipo to help push their team over the edge and into the next round. Regardless of the result, we’re guaranteed at least one former Hoosier will be playing in the Western Conference Semifinals.


How Much Will  Williams Play?

Troy Williams deserves a lot of praise for what he has accomplished during his rookie season.

As an undrafted rookie he wowed teams during the Summer League while playing for the Phoenix Suns and while the Suns couldn’t keep him due to a logjam at the wing position, the Memphis Grizzlies did sign him to their opening night roster. After 24 games and 13 starts with the Grizzlies, Memphis decided to switch gears when it found itself unexpectedly in the playoff hunt and thus Williams was cut and sent to the NBA D-League where he had a ton of success which included winning the D-League Slam Dunk Contest.

Like Yogi Ferrell, Williams used the momentum of his D-League performance to get a second chance with the NBA, where he has had immediate success with the Houston Rockets averaging 9.7 points on 50% shooting, including 38.1% from three-point range filling in for the injured Sam Dekker. With Dekker still out for at least the first round of the playoffs, does that mean we’ll see Williams play a role in the Houston-Oklahoma City series?

That’s where things get tricky. Teams usually shorten their benches in the playoffs and since Dekker was similar to a ninth man off the bench, it wouldn’t be surprising that Williams, Dekker’s replacement, might not see the floor much when you consider a healthy Dekker would likely see his minutes dwindle. I think Williams will see the court in the first round but I wouldn’t count on him playing every game.


What To Expect Out Of Vonleh And The Trail Blazers Against The Warriors

The Portland Trail Blazers’ last 10 games proved to be a significant step forward for Noah Vonleh.

While the Trail Blazers wrapped up the last playoff spot in the Western Conference by going 7-3, Vonleh finally flashed the potential scouts saw in him when he was considered a lottery pick back in 2014. He averaged 7.6 points on 56.4% shooting and 8.6 rebounds while playing 28.1 minutes per game and recording three double-doubles.

Vonleh hopes that his recent performance carries over into the postseason after failing to score and only grabbing four rebounds in six postseason games last year. Luckily he’ll be playing against a team in the Golden State Warriors that he has had some success against this season:

Noah Vonleh vs the Golden State Warriors: 4.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 0.3apg, 0.75spg, 0.00bpg, 1.3tpg, 0.8fpg, 38.1% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 0.0% FT, 15.0mpg. (four games)

While those numbers may seem a little underwhelming, it’s worth noting that the last time Vonleh faced the Warriors was still before the All-Star Break. In 48 games before the All-Star Break, Vonleh averaged 3.2 points on 40.7% shooting and 4.2 rebounds. In the 26 games after the All-Star Break, Vonleh has averaged 6.7 points on 57.5% shooting and 7.2 rebounds. Needless to say, I expect Vonleh to play much better this time around against the Warriors.


Season Averages:

Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell: Guard, Dallas Mavericks:

10.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.7apg, 0.91spg, 0.20bpg, 1.5tpg, 2.0fpg, 40.6% FG, 38.6% 3FG, 83.1% FT, 26.0mpg (46 games)

Eric Gordon: Guard, Houston Rockets:

16.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.5apg, 0.64spg, 0.55bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 40.6% FG, 37.2% 3FG, 84.0% FT, 31.0mpg (75 games)

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder:

15.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.6apg, 1.16spg, 0.31bpg, 1.8tpg, 2.3fpg, 44.2% FG, 36.1% 3FG, 75.3% FT, 33.2mpg (67 games)

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

4.4ppg, 5.2rpg, 0.4apg, 0.41spg, 0.36bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.1fpg, 48.1% FG, 35.0% 3FG, 63.8% FT, 17.1mpg (74 games)

Troy Williams: Forward, Houston Rockets:

6.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 0.8apg, 0.90spg, 0.33bpg, 1.1tpg, 2.0fpg, 43.7% FG, 29.0% 3FG, 65.6% FT, 18.6mpg (30 games)

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

10.3ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.6apg, 1.00spg, 0.94bpg, 1.0tpg, 3.0fpg, 57.1% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 67.9% FT, 27.8mpg (62 games)

Hoosiers In The NBA: Reviewing The Script To The Charlotte-Miami Series

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.

For today’s edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to recap the “script” to the Charlotte-Miami series and map out how the series actually mirrored a five act theatrical play. Plus I’ll also review how Cody Zeller did in comparison to my projected stats.

As for the Portland-Golden State series, it should be an interesting one regardless of whether or not Noah Vonleh plays, but for the purposes of not rehashing this same topic (how does Vonleh find a way to play in this series) over and over again, this will probably be my last playoff update unless Vonleh’s role increases.

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Miami Wins 4-3)

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.

Game 7: Miami 106, Charlotte 73

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 6 points (3-7 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 turnovers 2 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

The Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat generated some compelling theatre during their series as the amount of twists and turns transformed a playoff series that had more blowouts than close games into one of the most interesting first round series in recent NBA history. So why not recap the series like it was a five act play? Here is the script:

ACT 1: The Heat On Fire – Game 1 & 2

  • The first act is primarily for creating exposition, but its other function is to introduce the conflict.
  • The exposition is straightforward and present before the series begins (it’s the playoffs and Miami has home-court advantage), but the conflict arises as a result of the Hornets getting run off the court during the first two games. The Heat combined to hit 93 of their 161 field attempts (57.8%), including 18 of 34 (52.9%) from deep in the first two games. The Hornets were now in the process of getting swept and, to add insult to injury, were now just one loss away from tying the record more most consecutive playoff games lost (13 by the New York Knicks).

ACT 2: Clifford Counters – Game 3 & 4

  • This act is called the rising action as the events of this act build up tension and draw the plot towards the climax.
  • Tension definitely began to rise for the Heat as what once looked like a possible sweep saw the series tied after four games. Charlotte Head Coach Steve Clifford made a great lineup change as he moved Cody Zeller to the bench to enhance the second unit, placing Al Jefferson in the starting lineup, and also started Frank Kaminsky at power forward, moving Marvin Williams to small forward. Both Zeller and Kaminsky had their best playoff games during game three as Zeller scored 12 and Kaminsky scored 15. Then in game four, Kemba Walker took over as his 34 points helped the Hornets even the series.

ACT 3: Courtney Lee’s Offensive Rebound – Game 5

  • The climax occurs in the third act as every building up to this point reaches a boiling point.
  • The climax (at least for the Hornets) happened when Courtney Lee grabbed a huge offensive rebound off of Walker’s missed 16-footer and hit the game-winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left. You could also argue that the climax was when Dwyane Wade rebounded a blocked Goran Dragic three-pointer and was unable to draw a foul as a 50-50 call went Charlotte’s way when the referees didn’t whistle Zeller for a personal foul.

ACT 4: Wade Refuses To Die – Game 6

  • The falling action follows the climax and details what happens after the climax and starts to wrap up the narrative.
  • I had to cheat a little bit here as game six could be considered either the climax or the falling action depending on which team’s point of view you are taking.
  • It’s a climax for Miami as the franchise’s greatest player refused to let his team lose by imposing his will on the game when it mattered most. Wade scored 10 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, but more impressively he made two three-pointers in the period after not making a single one in the last four months.
  • For Charlotte this game is the falling action due to the realization after the loss that the Hornets had just blown their chance to win the playoffs series. Sure they had just won in Miami during game five, but now the Heat had all the momentum after finally solving the new Charlotte lineup.

ACT 5: Dragic, Defense Dominate – Game 7

  • The last act is called the denouement, which basically is just a conclusion or resolution to the story.
  • With the final outcome never in doubt after halftime, a lot of people considered game seven to be anti-climatic. While not the exact opposite of the climax, the denouement is more focused on wrapping up the story and getting to the final point. So Dragic’s 25 points and the Heat’s overall defensive brilliance helped make sure that the conclusion of this series was as clear as possible.

It was a valiant effort for the Hornets as they look to be a team on the rise as long as they retain their key free agents (especially Nic Batum) this summer. One of the reasons this team will continue to get better is because of Cody Zeller, as he actually surpassed my expectations by a little bit during the Miami series:

  • Cody Zeller’s Predicted Stats: 6.5ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.83spg, 1.50 bpg, 47.0% FG, 28.3mpg
  • Cody Zeller’s Actual Stats: 8.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 0.43bpg, 55.3% FG, 81.0% FT, 19.6mpg

While the numbers are a little off, for the most part I was right about the role Zeller would have in this series. He provided some excellent defense and was able to help the offense function with his ability to set perfect screens. However there were two things that surprised me:

  1. Zeller actually was involved in the scoring more than I anticipated. I figured he’d get a few passes in the paint off of pick-and-rolls, but Zeller actually attempted about a half dozen mid-range jumpers and ended up making most of them. This was usually the result of him getting the ball wide-open at the top of the key after the passer was double-teamed. He was also very confident at the foul line as he actually shot better in the playoffs (81.0%) than he did during the regular season (75.4%).
  2. The other thing that surprised me was that Zeller didn’t play anywhere near as much as I thought he would. Granted I didn’t predict that Zeller would end up giving his starting spot to Al Jefferson, but Zeller ended up ranking eighth on the team in terms of minutes played with only 120 minutes logged. In comparison, rookie Frank Kaminsky played 190 minutes and Nic Batum (who only played five of the seven games, two of which he came off the bench) played 144 minutes. I understand why they ended up playing more (Kaminsky can play both power forward and center and Batum in Charlotte’s second best player) but the minutes gap still feels a little strange.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (1) Golden State Warriors (Golden State leads 1-0)

Game 1: Golden State 118, Portland 106

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

I predicted in my series preview that either Noah Vonleh would take Chris Kaman’s spot in the nine-man rotation or Portland Head Coach Terry Stotts would shorten it to an eight-man rotation. For game one at least, he seems to have chosen the latter.

Yet that doesn’t mean it still can’t happen. The Portland Trail Blazers need to make some kind of adjustment as the Golden State Warriors (even without Stephen Curry) were the better team by a sizeable (both in skill and length) margin.

Vonleh could potentially start in the same role he had for most of the season (start both halves and determine playing time from his performance) and thus give Portland a legit power forward instead of playing two small forwards. I admit Coach Stotts could also go with Ed Davis in this situation but the starters do have experience playing with Vonleh which would bring some familiarity.

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Portland-Golden State Preview

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.

Western Conference 1st Round: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (1) Golden State Warriors

Regular Season Series: Warriors won 3-1

Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 3:30pm)

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)

Golden State Warriors:

C – Andrew Bogut: 5.4ppg (62.7% FG/48.0% FT), 7.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.6bpg

PF – Draymond Green: 14.0ppg (49.0% FG/38.8% 3FG/69.6% FT), 9.5rpg, 7.4apg, 1.5spg, 1.4bpg

SF – Harrison Barnes: 11.7ppg (46.6% FG/38.3% 3FG/76.1% FT), 4.9rpg, 1.8apg

SG – Klay Thompson: 22.1ppg (47.0% FG/42.5% 3FG/87.3% FT), 3.8rpg, 2.1apg

PG – Shaun Livingston: 6.3ppg (53.6% FG/86.0% FT), 2.2rpg, 3.0apg

MVP – Stephen Curry: 30.1ppg (50.4% FG/45.4% 3FG/90.8% FT), 5.4rpg, 6.7apg, 2.1spg

Key Bench Players – Andre Iguodala (7.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.4apg), Marreese Speights (7.1ppg, 38.7% 3FG), Ian Clark (3.6ppg), Leandro Barbosa (6.4ppg)

What To Expect:

The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the few playoff teams that beat the Golden State Warriors this year, so with Stephen Curry’s status up in the air there is a chance the Trail Blazers make this a very interesting series.

So does that mean that Noah Vonleh will have zero chance of playing any meaningful minutes in this series? Surprisingly I think there is a realistic chance he does play.

As with the Los Angeles Clippers series, there is a potential scenario that may provide Vonleh with an opportunity to play. Chris Kaman was the reserve center in the last series but I don’t think he can keep up with small-ball centers such as Draymond Green and Marreese Speights. Vonleh is much more athletic and is quick enough to guard both.

But before you pencil in Vonleh for eight minutes per game, know that there’s another solution that is just as likely.  If Coach Terry Stotts still thinks Vonleh isn’t ready for such a big responsibility he may instead just shorten his rotation and stagger his post players’ minutes so that either Mason Plumlee or Ed Davis is always on the court.

Just like last series it may come down to a first impression. I could see Stotts giving Vonleh a chance during game one and if he likes what he sees he’ll continue to have Vonleh come off the bench. If he doesn’t, Vonleh will be glued to the bench for the rest of the series.

Stat Predictions: 0.8ppg, 1.3rpg, 33% FG, 3.8mpg

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