Oklahoma City • The OK3 might now be whittled down to two.
As the Thunder rallied for one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Carmelo Anthony found himself on the bench for nearly all of it.
His second-half totals in Game 5: three points, no field goals, no assists, two rebounds and one argument with assistant coach Mo Cheeks. The subject matter of the confrontation was obvious: Melo wanted to be on the floor.
“It was just me wanting to play, me wanting to be a part of what was going on out there,” Anthony said. “[Cheeks] was trying to get me to understand kinda what was going on in the situation and those guys was rolling. I think for me, it was about my competitive nature.”
Unfortunately for Anthony, the Thunder have been better with him out of the lineup in the series. The Thunder have been outscored by 11.8 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the floor in five games .
There’s many explanations for this. Anthony is shooting just 36.9 percent in the series and hasn’t been able to space the floor as a 21.4-percent 3-point shooter. At the same time, he gives up a rebounding edge to Derrick Favors, with whom he’s often matched, as a stretch four. The Jazz have attacked Anthony’s suspect defense in isolation and with pick-and-rolls with decent success late in games.
So Billy Donovan tried something new Wednesday night, supplanting him with Jerami Grant, a more agile, more stretchy power forward who wound up with a plus-13 plus-minus rating compared to Anthony’s minus-6.
The results place some intrigue into what Anthony’s role will be for the rest of the series, but it also has powerful implications of his longterm future in Oklahoma City. He has a $28-million player option that he can pick up for next season (he’s widely expected to), and that’s a lot of money to dole out to a player who must sit in a comeback.
Anthony said he’d be willing to take a reduced role in the series if the Thunder can figure it out with other lineups. But it’s also clear that’s not what he wants to see happen, either.
“In Game 6, if they have it going, I’ll understand,” he said. “But hopefully we won’t be in that situation again.”
Gold T-shirt giveaway for Game 6
While it appeared for 28 minutes Wednesday night that the Jazz wouldn’t need to be ready for Game 6, Vivint Smart Home Arena is prepared to host again Friday night.
The Jazz are giving away gold T-shirts for the expected 18,306 capacity crowd for Game 6, which play off Utah’s gold Statement jerseys designed by Nike. The team also once again is hosting Fan Fest, which will start two-and-a-half hours before the 8:30 p.m. tip.