The Oklahoma City Thunder came back from a huge deficit against the Utah Jazz while veteran Carmelo Anthony was mostly away from the court.
The lineup that has looked the best for Oklahoma City does not include Anthony.
In fact, the 10-time All-Star has not had an assist since Game 1, as noted by Sean Deveney. He explained why the team has looked so much better when the 6-foot-8 forward is on the bench (via Sporting News):
“For the Thunder, the issue is defense, and how you’re able to handle the Jazz without Anthony on the floor. With Jerami Grant, you can switch everything off screens and harass the Jazz far more effectively.”
The lineup with Russell Westbrook, Alex Abrines, Paul George, Jerami Grant and Steven Adams has played a total of 10 minutes together during the postseason.
Among five-man units that have appeared in as many minutes, their offensive rating (179.3) has been by far the best group in the postseason. Meanwhile, their defensive rating (77.1) is the fourth-best in the Western Conference.
This group has outscored opponents by an absurd 1.02 points per possession, which has been 44.5 points per 100 possessions better than the next best five-man unit.
They had a slightly larger sample size during the regular season, appearing in 45 minutes together on the court. They had the best offensive rating (117.5) as well as the best defensive rating (84.4) on the team.
Their net rating (33.1) was the third-best among those who played as many minutes together in the regular season. Abrines is currently 4-for-6 (66.7 percent) after passes from Grant, including three field goals made from long range.
Westbrook has averaged 32.3 points with 11.3 rebounds and 10.7 assists per 36 minutes when both Abrines and Grant are on the court. Without those two, he has averaged 22.9 points with 9.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists per 36.
George has averaged 28.7 points with 4.5 assists per 36 when he is playing alongside Abrines and Grant. But when they both are on the bench, he has averaged just 20.1 points and 2.8 assists per 36. They have outscored their opponents by 17.2 points per 100 when George has played with Abrines and Grant in the playoffs.
As noted by Lowe, don’t be surprised if the Thunder opt for this group earlier than usual during Game 6.