NBA Playoff series can take on different forms during their span of upwards of two weeks. Only so much can be gleaned from one game and especially a Game 1. Much can and will probably change over the course of what will be somewhere in the range of three to six more games between the Wizards and Raptors.
Clearly, though, the way head coach Scott Brooks plans to handle his playoff rotation is much different than what we saw in the regular season. Despite having a better bench on paper than they did one year ago, that does not mean Brooks will use the full group of players he has available.
In their Game 1 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night, Brooks went away from several guys we are accustomed to seeing play large roles. Ian Mahinmi played only two minutes, Tomas Satoransky played 11 and Kelly Oubre, Jr. played 16.
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Mahinmi is the team's primary backup big man and is making $16.6 million this season. He averaged 14.9 minutes per game during the regular season and 13.9 in four meetings with the Raptors.
Satoransky is the team's best backup guard. He not only backs up John Wall at point guard, but is their best option at shooting guard behind Bradley Beal as well. He averaged 22.5 minutes in the regular season, though that is skewed by 30 starts due to Wall's injury.
Oubre's 11 minutes were 11.5 below his season average. He was the Wizards' sixth man all year, logging more minutes on average than starters Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.
Brooks went away from Mahinmi, Oubre and Satoransky to different degrees. The one bench player he trusted most was Mike Scott, who provided a spark with 14 points in 26 minutes. Brooks relied heavily on his starters and particularly Beal and Wall who played 41 and 39 minutes, respectively.
There are reasons to argue that each player's minutes going down was surprising. Oubre perhaps less than the others given his recent shooting struggles and how Brooks has described his defense in recent weeks, but the fact Otto Porter was playing through a right lower leg strain would seemingly help his cause. Those minutes went to Scott instead, which is understandable.
Mahinmi only playing two minutes was much harder to predict. He scored two points, picked up two quick fouls before the midway point of the first quarter and was gone, never to be seen again. Brooks didn't call his name even when Raptors' big man Serge Ibaka was going off for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Ibaka was arguably the player of the game, but clearly Brooks did not see Mahinmi as the solution.
Satoransky figured to play a significant role in these playoffs as the third guard. We knew that as the final stretch of the regular season played out. Once Jodie Meeks got suspended the day before the playoffs began for 25 games, it seemed to even further cement Satoransky as an important cog in the playoff rotation.
There seemed to be no one else they would turn to when giving Wall and or Beal a rest. Tim Frazier played three minutes at point guard, but that theory was largely proven true yet Satoransky's role was effectively shrunk.
It wouldn't be a dramatic change in Game 2 to have Satoransky play more minutes, perhaps as Brook seeks to solve the Wizards' issues both shooting threes and defending them. Satoransky is good at both. He shot a team-best 46.5 percent from long range during the regular season and has proven solid at defending perimeter shooters.
Oubre's role will fluctuate based on how he starts games and Porter's injury. The biggest headscratcher involves Mahinmi.
There were times this season when Brooks went away from Mahinmi entirely despite him being healthy and available, like on March 10 when he received a DNP-CD against the Heat based purely on matchups. The same happened on April 1 against the Bulls.
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There were six games this season where Mahinmi logged less than six minutes, similar to Saturday against the Raptors. Does Brooks not think Mahinmi is a good fit against the Raptors?
Time will tell throughout this series, but so far Brooks has tightened his rotation for the playoffs beyond the point many may have expected.
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