Oklahoma City Thunder: The B Team rises
A staple of the Thunder the last year or so has been a wholesale commitment to a B Team. Scotty Brooks using an all-bench lineup for stretches of the first half. Occasionally early fourth quarter, but mostly late first/early second quarter. Since the James Harden trade, which sent Daequan Cook to Houston, the Thunder has not had a real B Team. Brooks has used a nine-man rotation almost exclusively.
That changed Wednesday night in Atlanta. Foreman Scotty experimented with rookie Jeremy Lamb filling the fifth slot with the four always-used reserves — Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin and Hasheem Thabeet. Those four have been used in tandem in most every game this season, but usually with Kevin Durant or Thabo Sefolosha and occasionally with Russell Westbrook. When Brooks pulled Reggie Jackson out of mothballs a few games ago against New Orleans, Jackson played with the big boys — he was a sidekick to Westbrook in a greyhound offense.
So Wednesday night was a new development. Lamb playing the part of Daequan Cook in a true B Team. The scrubs played two seconds shy of four minutes. And the results were spectacular.
Brooks inserted Martin for Thabo with 5:31 left in the first quarter, which is about usual. At 3:11, Collison came in for Kendrick Perkins and Lamb replaced Durant. At the 2:00 mark, out went Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, in came Thabeet and Maynor. Viola, a B Team, with the Thunder trailing 19-17. Seemed a little dicey. The Hawks were playing a mostly-reserve unit themselves; star Josh Smith was on the court along with Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia. With 21.2 seconds left in the quarter, John Jenkins replaced Smith.
And it was total domination by the Thunder B Team. Martin hit a running jumper to forge a 19-19 tie. Smith fumbled the ball out of bounds. Then Lamb nailed a 20-foot jumper, which is the lowest-percentage shot — a long 2-pointer — but still. Another Hawk turnover led to the game’s greatest player. Thabeet swished a no-hesitation 12-foot baseline jumper. Suddenly the Thunder led 23-19.
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