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Who should be the 'Closing 5' for the Blazers in the Playoffs?

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Everyone makes a big deal about the 'starting 5', but how about the guys who are on the floor at the end of the game? Do they necessarily have to be the same? Terry Stotts hasn't always thought so. Discuss and vote on who you think should be on the floor when it matters most.

Before the most recent rash of injuries, Terry Stotts feverishly mixed and matched lineups, particularly in the fourth quarter, trying to find something that would work. He’s tried a ton of different options:  245 different lineups on the year in the 4th quarter, if you can believe it. Stotts tries to tailor personnel to the opponent and situation: like if the team is behind, he often goes with a ‘small ball lineup’ (no center) – which worked really well in an 11 point comeback against OKC in February, but not so much against the Clippers on April 1 when they couldn’t get a rebound off of DeAndre Jordan’s missed free throws late.

Unfortunately, with all the injuries, it’s been impossible to get any sense of cohesion and confidence in a certain group. Assuming Batum and Afflalo are available, the group that has had the second most run this season in the fourth quarter of all available lineups is Frazier-Crabbe-Gee-Freeland-Leonard.


So now, Stotts will have to come up with a group to play crunch time with precious little data, while playing the biggest games of the year. It’s the equivalent of building a plane while it’s flying.

Here are the fourth quarter numbers for the only lineup with any significant playing time, next to those by the previous closing five:

LIneup Min Off Rtg Def Rtg Net Rtg eFG% Opp eFG% Ast/TO OReb% DReb% FTA Rate PIE
Lillard-Afflalo-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez 45 120.6 123.3 -2.7 53.0 49.5 1.7 29.5 68.8 .293 50.3
Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez 119 117.2 98.8 18.4 49.8 44.7 2.93 25.4 73.6 .369 58.3

You’ll recognize these as the starters pre- and post- March 5. There are some pretty glaring differences in key areas here. Is there a way to maximize roster talent to make up for any deficiencies here?

Since any other lineup in the fourth has been an extremely small sample, we can step back and look at how groups have fared during all minutes on the floor (minimum 29 minutes), ranked by PIE:

Lineup Min Off Rtg Def Rtg Net Rtg eFG% Opp eFG% Ast/TO OReb% DReb% FTA Rate PIE
Lillard-Afflalo-Batum-Aldridge-Kaman 29 121.4 94.1 27.1 47.5 45.4 3.75 40.0 70.4 .250 64.6
Lillard-McCollum-Batum-Leonard-Lopez 45 118.4 98 20.4 56.3 43.9 1.62 28.6 76.0 .241 62.8
Lillard-Blake-Batum-Leonard-Aldridge 32 132.8 111 21.8 69.4 53.4 2.22 22.2 86.7 .148 59.7
Lillard-McCollum-Batum-Aldridge-Kaman 57 115.2 103.3 11.9 56.0 50.6 1.22 35.4 74.4 .210 55.3
Lillard-Afflalo-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez 314 107.5 111 -3.5 51.6 51.3 1.58 24.2 75.5 .223 48.4
Lillard-Blake-Batum-Aldridge-Kaman 95 104.8 110.3 -5.5 52.2 51.7 1.43 29.3 69.4 .210 48.2
Lillard-McCollum-Batum-Aldridge-Lopez 30 105.3 119.1 -13.9 54 54 1.22 17.4 80.8 .220 43.3
Lillard-Blake-Batum-Aldridge-Kaman 46 93 105.6 -12.6 43.6 50.6 2.1 20.0 72.3 .205 42.9

So of course most of these numbers remain fairly small sample sizes, and are not controlled for opponent, but at least give you some sort of glimpse into how these lineups work together.  After all, you are trying to capture lightning in a bottle here, and you have to go with what you've got.

You may note that only one grouping didn't have both of the team's two best players in it: Lillard-McCollum-Batum-Leonard-Lopez is not necessarily something I'd suggest in the final minutes of a game, but worth thinking about when LMA needs a breather.

Some other things you may want to factor in:

1. The Blazers have been gifted with a generous number of rest days throughout the first round.  This could have particular benefits for the recovery of banged-up players, or possibly allow you to play veterans like Kaman or Blake more.

2.  The Blazers have a few x-factors that are unknowns for one reason or another.  Joel Freeland, Alonzo Gee, and Allen Crabbe are all starting to come into their own - how do they factor into all this?  Or do they?

3.  Surely you'll want to consider the individual matchups that the Blazers will be actually facing--you know, against only the most difficult possible opponent, who we were 0-for-4 against in the regular season.  How do you keep up with Gasol and Z-Bo inside?  Who do you put on Conley?

So, now that you're armed with some facts --