These days, it’s usually more of a news story when the Paces keep the same starters two games in a row than it is when they try a new starting lineup. So why should the 17th new starting lineup of the year be any more newsworthy than the 16th?
Well, the “small ball” starting lineup employed yesterday (Earl Watson, Luther Head, Brandon Rush, Danny Granger and Troy Murphy) feels a little more significant for two reasons. The first is that it was effective in the sense that the Pacers won and, thus, we will probably see if more often. The second is that with the Lakers (Bynum and Gasol) and the Cavs (Shaq, Big Z, Varejao, Hickson) both coming to town this week, Coach O’Brien might not be able to lean on it as much as he would otherwise like to in the next two games.
Regardless of the short-term realities, it seems that the Coach is smitten. Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows breaks it down.
Not only did JOB start small, he stayed “small” all game long, never playing Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy at the same time and utilizing the extra wing player for all 48 minutes. The end result was net positive as the Pacers overcame a slow start and early 11-point deficit to continue attacking in the second half and notch a second-straight road win, 109-98. With the win to build on, the small lineup appears here to stay.
“In regards to small vs. big lineup the margin is over +320 (favoring small) for the year. We’ll go with it for as many games as we can, as long as we can because that’s our best lineup,” JOB told reporters after the game.
So what took so long?
Dahntay Jones, who had what was arguably his best game since November last night, might be asking that same question and he seems to be a fan of how going small helps the team run and create match-up problems.
“We can cause matchup problems with our small lineup,” Dahntay Jones said. “The tempo changes when we have the small lineup. Everybody runs. Then they have to find out who they’re going go guard. Who’s their big man going to guard? And we take advantage of that. It’s been a weapon of ours in the past, and I’m glad we got back to it.”
Troy couldn’t argue with the results either, although he sounds a little more skeptical of whether or not it will always work — or perhaps he just has no interest in trying to bang with Bynum and Shaq over the next two games?
“It works against a team like that,” Troy Murphy said. “They’re a team that runs up and down. Against some of the bigger teams, we may struggle. We may do well. It worked well for us tonight.”
We’ll see tomorrow whether or not Jim is enamored enough with wee ball to see if it can work against the big, long champs. But expect to see more of it in the weeks to come.
Michael Jordan isn’t walking through that door, but the Coach thinks going small might be the most effective way for this Pacers roster to win.