Clips v. Bucks / The Flow

After the Los Angeles Clippers vs. Milwaukee Bucks game on Saturday night and the reappearance of the dreaded three-guard lineup we saw in somewhat different form last year, I thought it was time to take a look at the gameflow chart on PopcornMachine.net (an interesting site that either is or should be in your favorites list).

PopcornMachine provides two interesting charts, the first is a detailed boxscore which includes all the usual stuff along with plus/minus, "help value", "production", and "efficiency" (you can find detailed definitions of those stats on the site). The second page is the "gameflow chart", and it's the chart we're primarily interested in today.

Go there, if you like, and play with it. It looks pretty simple, but as you get deeper you'll realize how much it reveals. If you move your mouse across the chart, windows open that break out each players activity for every string of minutes he played... and you can track who's on the court throughout the game.

The three-guard lineup is one issue, but I'm obviously not alone in my distress about the size and quality of the Clippers bench players... and the chart didn't relieve my concerns.

In the first half we saw coach Vinny Del Negro play what's becoming his usual rotation. The starters (DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul) played together for 6 minutes and 45 seconds. The two teams played roughly even basketball for this period. Then Del Negro brought in Ryan Gomes and Mo Williams for Billups and Butler. He took out DeAndre Jordan around two minutes later and brought in newcomer Reggie Evans. When Gomes comes out around two minutes into the second quarter, he's gone for good, never reappearing in the game.

Mo Williams, as the primary bench scorer, has an okay night. He goes 4/7, scores ten points, has four assists in 21 minutes, but has also has a disappointing +/- of -11, and he has three turnovers. Plus/minus of course can be hugely misleading and you have to measure it against who's on the floor for the other team. The Bucks primary reserves, who were usually on the floor versus Williams were Shaun Livingston and Jon Leuer. They were also had the Bucks highest plus/minus numbers at +11 and +14 (makes sense, right)? Of course Mo was also on the floor often against Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson, who both played a whopping 44+ minutes (in their fourth road game in six days, and first game of a back-to-back). Surprisingly, to me anyway, they both played the ENTIRE second half.

But what about the three guard line-up? With VDN determined to leave Ryan Gomes on the bench (most of his minutes went went to Brian Cook, who lost his regular minutes to Evans), he turned to a lineup featuring Williams, Paul, Billups, Jordan, and Griffin (though briefly with Cook and/or Evans) at around two minutes into the fourth quarter. The result, as you can see by the chart is that the Clippers took a lead of four points up to a lead of around six before Butler returned (replacing Williams). The players on the court for the Bucks for the bulk of it were the (tiring) starters less Ersan llyasova and Carlos Delfino, plus Livingston and Leuer, who had obviously earned their time.

The verdict on the three guard lineup? I'm disappointed to say there isn't one, the lineup was only on the court a few minutes and the results were inconclusive. The plus/minus for the team during that period seems to be a little better than even. When Gomes was on the floor in the first half (with Williams and not Billups) the plus/minus was a little less than even. So... replacing Butler with Gomes or three guards... is, at least for this one game, more or less a wash.

But the most disturbing stats are the continuing misery of the overall bench play. Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook (who did not appear on the court together) scored a combined 4 points and were -5 in 15 minutes. That, in tandem with Randy Foye's 4 points and -7 in 10.6 minutes, and Mo Williams okay numbers doesn't say much positive about the Clipper's reserves.

Okay then, what about the addition of Reggie Evans? He helped, right? Well... if helping is keeping Gomes on the bench sure, but I wonder about that. Evans was -2 overall, scored 3 points in 19 minutes and made only 1 of six free throws, adding to Jordan's 3/6 and Griffin's 6/11... and though he pulled down six rebounds, the Clips were still outrebounded 42-37. Different? Yes. Better? Not statistically anyway.

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