Much has been made of the Clippers' second unit and its propensity for turning close games into blowouts.
The unit -- Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe – has been stable since a November 24th game with the Atlanta Hawks, and has been a crucial factor in the Clippers’ current 14-game win streak.
Exactly how good have they been?
According to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, the Clips’ bench scores 103.4 points per 100 possessions, a number that would rank tenth among all starting lineups in the NBA, just behind the Houston Rockets (105.2 offensive rating) and Golden State Warriors (104.7 offensive rating).
And perhaps even more impressive is the second unit’s defensive performance thus far. The Clippers’ second five is allowing only 83.2 points per 100 possessions, a rate that would blow away the first place Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup, which manages a 95.7 defensive rating.
A significant part of second unit’s success has been their ability to force turnovers (12.5 steals per 48 minutes), get out and finish in transition (27.7 fastbreak points per 48 minutes), and pound the paint in the half court (55.9 points in the paint per 48 minutes).
As a result of their top 10-offense and league-leading defense, the bench’s net rating (point differential per 100 possessions) of 20.2 would more than double the rate of Clippers’ own mark of 10.5, which is first in the NBA.
The lineup’s plus-minus rating of +74 is the fourth most effective lineup in the NBA (Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers each have a lineup in the top 3). In fact, L.A.’s bench is much more effective than its starting lineup (+23), or the recent crunch time lineup of Odom-Blake Griffin-Matt Barnes-Jamal Crawford-Chris Paul (+23).
The unit is not just maintaining leads, it’s extending them, and allowing L.A.’s starters to get adequate rest.
The lineup features the right combination of shooters, scorers, slashers, defenders and rebounders and when matched against opponents’ second units allows the Clippers to continue to put tremendous pressure on the opposition throughout the game.
The benefits extend beyond single games as well. To this point, no Clipper player (starter or reserve) is averaging more than 33 minutes of playing time, allowing the team to stay fresh night-to-night.
Even if the bench regresses over the course of the season, it should still be the best second unit in the league by a considerable margin, providing the Clippers with a critical edge down the stretch.