You know me, I always like to look at plus/minus numbers in a playoff series. I always do it with the Thunder. I rarely do it with games not involving the Thunder. But the Miami-Indiana series is so interesting, I checked out the plus/minus — how have the teams done with individual players on the court?
The numbers are interesting and instructive, maybe even for other teams. Here’s what I found:
* The two players with the best plus/minus in this series are Lance Stephenson and Mario Chalmers. You read that correctly.
Not LeBron James. Not Dwyane Wade. Not Chris Bosh. Not Roy Hibbert. Not Paul George. Not David West. Stephenson and Chalmers.
Stephenson is +28 — he’s been +15 and +14 in the Pacers’ two wins. Chalmers is +23, including +11 Tuesday night in Miami’s loss, when only Chalmers and Joel Anthony (who played only two minutes) were in the plus.
Stephenson will drive a coach absolutely nuts. Bad shots. Bad attitude, seems like. But the guy plays hard, and on a team with limited depth, you need every able body out there. Chalmers is just a good basketball player who is much better than his backup, Norris Cole, even if America doesn’t want to admit it.
* Every Indiana starter is in the plus this series — Stephenson +28, West +11, George Hill +6, George +5 and Hibbert +3. But the series is tied 2-2, and Miami has the only blowout win. That shows you how limited is the Pacer depth. Every Indiana bench player is in the minus — and most of them by a huge margin. D.J. Augustin -31, Sam Young -27, Tyler Hansbrough -20, Orlando Johnson -7, Ian Mahinmi -2. Frank Vogel has to play his backups. But man, the Pacers suffer when he does.
It’s an interesting test case for a team like the Thunder. Or the Heat, for that matter. Both are top-heavy teams. That’s a bummer when injuries occur, as we learned with Russell Westbrook. But a team built on balance but with a limited bench? Well, that’s a problem. We saw that with Memphis. When the Heat or the Thunder has to go to its bench, it can leave in a superstar and be just fine. When the Pacers or the Grizzlies go to their bench, there’s no LeBron or Durant to carry the day with the backups.
* Wade’s apparent ineffectiveness is backed up by the plus/minus numbers. Wade just looks a step slow. And he’s -8 for the series. Wade was +4 in the Game 3 rout, and even that was unimpressive, considering seven teammates were +9 or better.
* The Heat and Pacers have played 197 minutes so far in this series. No five-man unit has played more than eight minutes total — except the starting five, which has played 107 minutes. In those 107 minutes, the Pacers have outscored Miami by 28 points. The rest of the 90 minutes, the Heat has outscored Indiana by 36.
* LeBron has been minus in two games — -7 in Game 2 and -3 in Game 4. Do you know how hard that is? To outscore the Heat twice in four games with LeBron on the court?
* The Birdman has played sensationally — still hasn’t missed a shot, averaging 4.75 rebounds a game — but he’s not necessarily hurting the Pacers. The Birdman was +10 in that Game 3 rout, but he’s been in minus the other three games: -4 in Game 1, -2 in Game 2 and -11 in Game 4.
* Indiana’s Game 2 plus/minus is one of the starkest things I’ve ever seen. Every starter in double digits; every reserve virtually with a bigger minus than minutes. Hansbrough -12 in seven minutes, Young -15 in 10 minutes, Mahinmi -8 in nine minutes, Augustin -12 in 15 minutes, Johnson -5 in one minute. The Pacers have no depth. No depth whatsoever.