OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz Series: How big man battle can decide series

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 21: Carmelo Anthony
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 21: Carmelo Anthony /
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Starters: Carmelo Anthony & Derrick Favors

If Carmelo Anthony can make shots, the Thunder will be very hard to beat. That’s always true, and it’s no different in this series. But let’s look past that, since the shots will either fall or they won’t, and Melo will stay in the game either way.

Melo and Favors make for an intriguing matchup. Derrick Favors is an incredibly traditional big. He starts, and he plays 28 minutes per game, but only 15 alongside Rudy Gobert (NBA.com). Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony is the epitome of the modern I-used-to-be-a-3-but-I-got-old stretch 4. He is far from a natural rebounder, although he has been a willing rebounder this season.

The interesting question is whether Favors will be able to stay in the game with Melo dragging him out to the three-point line. And, if he does, can he punish Melo on the boards?

The Jazz are fourth in the league in Defensive Rebound Rate (79.8 percent of misses), while the OKC Thunder are first in Offensive Rebound Rate (27.7 percent). Consequently, if Melo can force Favors off the floor, those numbers should skew in OKC’s favor.

Reserves: Patrick Patterson & Jae Crowder

First of all, Jae Crowder could very easily have been discussed on the Small Forwards slide. He, like Melo, is a career three who has aged into a four, although he is earlier in his transition than Melo. Crowder’s played 17.4 minutes per game next to Gobert since coming over from Cleveland in a trade, and he’s part of the Jazz’s favorite closing lineup.

That lineup is Mitchell-Rubio-Ingles-Crowder-Gobert, and it’s devastating. That lineup is +27.4 (!) per 100 possessions, in almost 200 minutes. It’s real. And, the Thunder have yet to find a perfect lineup to oppose it.

Enter Patrick Patterson. The crafty veteran experienced an up-and-down season so far – or, rather, a down-then-up season. After a slow start with limited minutes, 2Pat has shot 47.2 percent from three over the last 15 games and has started to make an impact on the defensive end. Check out his especially relevant defense on Chris Paul:

That’s 30 consecutive seconds of defense on one of the best point guards in the NBA. Sure, that last shot went in, but it’s Chris Paul – sometimes they go in. If the Jazz want to roll with Favors at PF, fine, have Melo draw him away from the basket. If they want to put Crowder in, the Thunder should go insert the never-used lineup of Russ-PG-Melo-2Pat-Adams and beat them at their own game, sliding Melo down to SF to guard Ingles. PG and Russ can defend the dual point guards of the Jazz, Mitchell and Rubio.

Patrick Patterson is the key to that big lineup.