Like the Fast and Furious crew, some groups of teammates just click. They work together so well that the coach can’t help but leave them out there together. They become more than just teammates – they become family.
Since the year 2000, four times has a set of 5 teammates stayed on the court together for more than 35 minutes during a regulation 48 minute game. Here are the games:
The Rockets were 7-20 coming into the game, and so had very little to lose. There wasn’t a lot of depth on this Rockets team, especially with Steve Francis and Glen Rice injured. In fact, once the dust cleared on this crazy game, the five starters had scored 113 of the 115 points.
The trio of Cuttino Mobley, Walt Williams and Eddie Griffin shot lights out – going a combined 17 for 30 from three. Kelvin Cato and the delightfully named Moochie Norris helped hold down the fort, as the starters played together on the court for over 38 minutes. This included Cuttino Mobley scoring 39 points and not coming out of the game even once.
The Kings teams of the early 2000’s were fantastic, but by the 2005-06 season they were running out of steam a bit. That was made worse by a string of injuries, including Ron Artest, Peja Stojakovic, Bonzi Wells, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. That left Coach Rick Adelman with only 8 players he even wanted to send out on the court.
So the starting five played, and played, and played. Francisco Garcia didn’t rest once. Mike Bibby played all but two minutes, and scored 42 points on 23 shots. Kevin Martin and Brad Miller combined with Bibby to shoot 32-34 on free throws, including 8 straight makes to put the game away. Also, Kenny Thomas was there.
The Warriors of the 2009-10 season were very different from the team they are today. In fact the only familiar face from that year’s team was a fresh-faced rookie from Davidson, named Stephen Curry.
This was the last game of the season, and things got a little crazy. The Warriors only had six healthy players, though they were forced to dress eight, so Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Morrow were dressed but unfit to play. Then starting center Chris Hunter went down with an injury five minutes into the game. They brought in Devean George and played the rest of the game with him plus the four starters – Curry, Monta Ellis, Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Williams.
Somehow this team is up four points on Portland with 5 minutes left in the game. But Devean George fouled out. So the refs force Don Nelson to put Chris Hunter back in the game – where he proceeds to block a shot (though clearly hobbled) before being re-injured and pulled back out of the game. The refs then force Nelly to put Turiaf and Morrow in the game before bringing Devean George back. So he brings them each in for a few seconds, says each of them was injured on the play, then finally brings George back in (after a technical free throw) to finish the game. Wild stuff!
The most recent of these games came in the Miami Heat’s tumultuous post-Lebron season. It was a tough year for Heat fans, watching a team drop from the NBA finals to missing the playoffs, plus a scary and season-ending injury for Chris Bosh. In this last game of the season the only thing they had to play for was slightly better odds to keep their lottery draft pick.
With various injuries and the season ending, Coach Erik Spoelstra ran out an unusual starting five of Michael Beasley, Henry Walker, James Ennis, Tyler Johnson and Zoran Dragic (who I believe is Goran Dragic‘s evil twin – you can tell by the mustache). Zoran played almost the entire game, with Udonis Haslem making a token appearance, but the other 4 played all 48 minutes.
The Heat pulled out the win against a very poor 76ers team, with Beasley leading the way with 34 points. In fact, looking back, all four of these teams won their games. I’m not saying this is sustainable over the season – but maybe NBA coaches should be looking at these games as an example of how forcing your starting lineup to stay together until they feel like family could be beneficial?
OK probably not.
The longest that any 5-man group played together, including overtimes, was this 4-overtime barnburner from 2012. Starters Gordon Hayward (who played a grueling 57.5 minutes!), Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and C.J. Miles combined for 100 points in the loss to the Hawks. Four overtimes means this game is tied for the 4th longest game in NBA history, as there has been one 6-overtime game and two 5-overtime games. Forty-five minutes together – that’s some strong bonding time!