The OKC Thunder found success via luck and circumstance but it could mean the trio point guard lineup becomes the quarter guard lineup.
The 2019-20 season will go down as the most unique on record. For this iteration of the OKC Thunder, that statement carries extra relevance. Consider how the offseason began as Paul George demanded a trade (I’m thinking we might want to send him thank you cards now).
That request initiated three trades including two superstars and a core piece. Everyone assumed that meant Sam Presti would enter his version of the process.
Instead, Sam Presti preached replenish and reposition and my goodness did they ever. While the full context of the R&R strategy might take years to fully be recognized there is no denying the addition of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Luguentz Dort has initiated both sides of the equation.
The two vets who joined the starting unit ended up being the perfect fit to pull the mishmash of a roster together. The crowning achievement was the Billy Donovan strategy to utilize the three point guards together in the clutch time lineup. It created mismatches for numerous teams and defensive challenges for others.
Is four-guard plus Gallo lineup here to stay?
That this team came together at Thanksgiving and kept improving had many citing the OKC Thunder as the West’s dark horse.
Adding a savvy veteran point guard (Chris Paul) and Swiss army knife big man (Danilo Gallinari) and putting three talented and unique point guards into a system that meant three ballhandlers was Donovan’s genius. Game 3, the trio finally looked like they had rediscovered their chemistry but two things happened which could have a new lineup become prominent in the Rockets series.
First, the massive success of Luguentz Dort as a primary defender on James Harden made him essential to have on the hardwood. The second situation was more a matter of timing and fate as Steven Adams dove for the ball at the end of regulation and hurt his knee.
That meant the typical ‘clutch time killer’ lineup couldn’t use Adams. Dort was inserted as the fifth meaning Danilo Gallinari became the center with four guards surrounding him.
The resulting effect was the highest point differential ever in a playoff overtime frame. To be fair, the Rockets aren’t a typical team that utilizes typical lineups.
That action was repeated in the pivotal Game 4 that the OKC Thunder essentially had to win in order to make this a series. Now the teams will be focused on the best of three games with the winner needing to win two of the three.
Moving forward this four-guard lineup looks to have replaced the clutch time lineup utilized the majority of the season.
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And, while this four-guard plus Gallo lineup could experience further success against the Rockets let’s not jump the gun to presume it would be equally successful against any other team.
With the Rockets they use P.J. Tucker at center, and while Dort isn’t as tall he possesses a similar body that allows him the ability to fight for position under the rim and become a better contributing rebounder.
To hear the national TV analysts comment on Dort’s shooting merited a smile – because Thunder Nation knows he’s the type of kid who’ll hit the practice gym to get his rhythm back. That was the case in Game 4 as Dort began to hit his open shots.
Moving forward, although I don’t envision Billy Donovan going with the four-guard lineup in large does it could close games.
Again, this isn’t a lineup the Thunder could use against the Clippers, Nuggets, Blazers, or Lakers but in this scenario, it turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.