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How is the Raptors rotation performing in the playoffs so far?

Let’s revisit the Raptors rotation and lineups we hoped for before the playoffs started and see what has gone to plan and what hasn’t.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the playoffs, we made an effort to assemble the best 8-man rotation for the Raptors that we could. The thinking here was based on a truism of the post-season: in tight games against good teams, that’s how short rotations tend to get in the playoffs.

Before heading into the second round, let’s take a quick look at what lineups the Raptors have actually used and how effective they’ve been.

Keep in mind: the Raptors won their series by 82 points, so mostly everything worked. Don’t be surprised if everything looks rosy after that. Still, let’s start where we usually do.

The Starters

Toronto’s starters famously had a terrible Game 2 against the Brooklyn Nets, and let off the gas early in Game 1. Still, in both instances, they recovered nicely for the rest of the series to the form they showed to start Game 1, just completely outclassing the Nets’ injury-depleted lineup. I’ve included the regular season for comparison.

Lineup | Minutes Played | ORTG | DRTG | RTG

KL-FVV-OGA-PS-MG (regular season): 361 MP, 110.9, 98.1, +12.9
KL-FVV-OGA-PS-MG (post-season): 61 MP, 122.3, 114.8, +7.5

ORTG: Offensive rating; points scored per 100 possessions
DRTG: Defensive rating; points allowed per 100 possessions
RTG: Net rating; point differential per 100 possessions

So, yeah, there was a little drop off with that horrendous Game 2 when the Raps were flummoxed by the Nets’ switching defense. Worth noting however that in the final two games after making the necessary adjustments to their offensive approach, Toronto’s net rating shot all the way up to +29, with most of that improvement on the offensive side.

Going into the Boston series, there is a high likelihood the Celtics will throw a lot of switching at the Raptors. It’s convenient then that the Nets tried it first, and allowed the starting group in particular to work through their counters to that sort of tactic. They should be much better prepared for whatever the Celtics throw at them having already gone through that adjustment once.

The Bench

The bigger question heading into the playoffs was who would be getting minutes off the bench outside of Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka. Turns out, we got to see a little of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas before they were seemingly supplanted for that full time 8th spot by Terence Davis. I had hoped that would be the case, and it worked out pretty well for the Raptors.

Here are the rest of the most used lineups the Raptors played in the Nets series, outside of the starters. Note the dramatic drop off in total minutes played for these units, and as such keep in mind that these numbers are descriptive of how these units did — but are probably not predictive, considering how small the samples are.

Lineup | Minutes Played | RTG

KL-TD-NP-OGA-MG: 9 MP, +19.7
FVV-NP-OGA-PS-SI: 9 MP, +9.1
FVV-TD-NP-PS-SI: 9 MP, +47.2
FVV-NP-OGA-PS-MG: 8 MP, +44.2
KL-FVV-NP-PS-SI: 7 MP, -33.8

That’s all the lineups with at least seven minutes played. Which is an arbitrary cut off but it gives us the five most used lineups.

Only one big deficit lineup, and that’s a group where Norm and Serge plug in with the starters in place of OG Anunoby and Marc Gasol, a look that has tended not to work this year as a whole. I imagine the usage for this lineups was against the Nets’ better players with all three of the major offensive creators on the floor at once, which would be a change from the other bench lineups, which mostly were competing against the empty void where the Nets used to have a bench. Mostly it’s just a shame to use that lineup with all three main creators and lose those minutes. Obviously it didn’t matter against the Nets, but it would be a shameful waste of minutes for those guys if the team was bleeding points against the Celtics without resting any of those three.

Otherwise, not much in way of a pattern except that Davis is clearly the team’s eighth man at this point.

How Did Everybody Do?

So, finally, just a quick check on how everyone on the Raptors fared overall in their minutes through the Nets series, to see if there were any obvious guys who hurt the team in their minutes.

Player | Minutes Played | RTG
Siakam: 134 MP, +17.9
FVV: 133 MP, +19.6
OG: 130 MP, +19.4
Lowry: 119 MP, +23.6
Powell: 96 MP, +29.7
Ibaka: 94 MP, +30.2
Gasol: 80 MP, +8.5
Davis: 53 MP, +26.2
Thomas: 43 MP, +22.0
RHJ: 30 MP, +13.6

Nothing like a weak link there. Gasol is the closest, and is dragged down by his performance in Game 2, but even his on-court rating was comparable to what it was during the regular season (+10.1 net rating). Considering he was basically the only player asked to play exclusively against Brooklyn’s best (and really only NBA-quality) lineup probably played into it as well (with the other starters getting significant minutes against the Nets’ bench and transition looks).

The bench super-pairing of Powell and Serge were incredible individually in the Nets series, powering the bench to huge wins over an undermanned Nets team. The competition will be stiffer against Boston (though their bench is also fairly thin), but if both players can continue to be effective in a similar manner, that will be a significant advantage for the Raptors in the next round.

All stats per NBA.com.