Caught in a four-point game with three and a half minutes remaining, OKC Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a bold choice and it paid dividends.
Riding a four-game losing streak, the OKC Thunder were desperate to stop the slide but had to do it against the second-best team in the NBA away from home. With three and a half minutes remaining, power forward Jerami Grant was forced to exit the game with six fouls after Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard earned an And-1 call.
What coach Billy Donovan chose to do next would likely decide the outcome of the game.
Rather than going to Markieff Morris or Patrick Patterson as a traditional four, Donovan opted to deploy a Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Terrance Ferguson, Paul George, and Steven Adams closing line-up. This line-up was interesting for the following reasons:
- The line-up has played a grand total of 45 minutes across 73 games
- Offensive rating is 127.5, defensive rating is 117.5
- Toronto was much bigger overall – closing with Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakim and Marc Gasol
From that point on, Oklahoma City finished the game on a 10-6 run, forcing three turnovers, retrieving three offensive rebounds and allowing Toronto just five shots in the clutch.
Dennis Schroder was huge in the final frame making two of the Thunder’s three makes from the
field while Paul George and Russell Westbrook put on savvy veteran moves to draw fouls and effectively seel the game.
Whether or not this line-up will be effective against other elite squads remains to be seen but there is enough to suggest if OKC want an offensive boost, this line-up is a great way to go.
Defensively it brings a number of challenges and is match-up specific. A Schroder – Westbrook backcourt is light on size while Ferguson is lucky to weigh more than a wafer.
PG13 and Adams are a formidable front-court duo given their length while Adams sheer size helps protect the rim if opposing teams choose to drive.
But for one game Billy deserves some credit – he made the right choice at the right time.