Film Room: Welcome to the Carmelo Anthony show

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Carmelo Anthony
OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Carmelo Anthony /

Since Carmelo Anthony arrived in OKC, he has settled into a new identity. And that’s a good thing for Thunder fans. Against the Grizzlies, Melo shot the Thunder out of trouble.

One of the OKC Thunder’s season narratives so far has been about a new “Big 3”. With Steven Adams enjoying a historic season for himself, the media has declared that it is just as well Carmelo Anthony take a back seat on offense. But, with the team staring down a crushing collapse against Memphis, Melo showed why he remains pivotal to the Thunder’s title hopes.

Broken defence

It has been a difficult season for the Thunder. Just as the offense was starting to click, the team lost Andre Roberson to a season-ending injury. Billy Donovan tried experimenting with different alternatives. But, neither Terrance Ferguson nor Josh Huestis has been entirely convincing.

Last night, Donovan tried starting Alex Abrines instead, and the results were as expected. Sure, the shooting was through the roof. But, poor defense opened the door for a late Grizzlies comeback.

Memphis started by running a simple cross screen along the baseline. Melo calls for the switch early, but Abrines is clearly frazzled by all the movement. Russell Westbrook then loses his man, and fails to even call out the screen on Abrines. Abrines’ man just has to flare out to the corner, and it is an easy three-pointer for the Grizzlies.

Pulling the team up

Late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder were desperate for buckets. The Grizzlies had been defending well, forcing the Thunder to jack up bad shots. Thankfully for Thunder fans, bad shots don’t hurt when they are made shots.

In the clutch, Tyreke Evans played fantastic defense. As soon as Westbrook kicks the ball out, Evans forces Melo towards the help defense, without falling prey to a fly-by. But, Anthony takes the exact shot the defense wants him to take, and makes it in their face. Pulling up off the long, contested two, Melo showed why being able to make a variety of shots is the key to a good offense.

Mr Reliable

In basketball, some things are complicated. Half-court sets, playoff adjustments. Those need long periods of deliberation. But, last night, Melo showed that some things will always be simple for him.

With the Thunder needing a bucket to fend off the Grizzlies, Westbrook gives Melo a late kick-out. The pass is off, and the shot clock is winding down. Not that it mattered one bit to the 15-year old veteran. Melo stuffs the three in the home crowd’s face, and effectively puts the game to bed.

Sometimes, in basketball, you just want to have players who can make difficult shots look simple. Last night, Carmelo Anthony proved that he can be exactly that sort of player for the Thunder.

This is me

The All-Star weekend gives Billy Donovan and the OKC Thunder some time to regroup. The season certainly has not been easy. Trying to gel three superstars together will always need time. But, even as Melo gets phased out of that “superstar” narrative, there should be no doubt about his place in the squad.

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There is no turning back on the path Carmelo Anthony has taken. Spotting up and attacking mismatches is his new role, and it is for the better. But, as long as Melo is on the court, Billy Donovan can trust that he has another premium shotmaker in the clutch. Come playoff time, Thunder fans will realize how much of a luxury that is.