At the all-star break in February, through 55 games, Jeremy Lamb was averaging 10 points a game. The Thunder seemed to have found quite the complementary sharpshooter for its talented roster.
Then Lamb scored in double digits only four times the rest of the regular season, matching the number of games in which he didn’t even play. Caron Butler was added to the roster, took over most of Lamb’s minutes, and Lamb reverted to what he was last season — a player for the future.
Lamb’s final regular-season statistics — 8.5 points, 19.7 minutes a game, 35.6 3-point shooting — were solid. But falling by the day.
Then the playoffs started. In three games of the Memphis series, Lamb played 6:30 total, spread out over the three blowouts. No time in any of the four straight playoff games. Then came the Clippers series. Lamb played 12 minutes in Game 1 — the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles blowout. He played 1:21 in Game 2 — at the end of the Thunder blowout.
Lamb kept his chin up. But chatting with him on a couple of occasions, he clearly was despondent. Said all the right things, but his eyes told a different story.
Scotty Brooks kept talking up Lamb, and so did the Thunder brass. But Lamb was not in the playoff plans.
Then came the San Antonio series. And in Game 1, early in the second quarter of a still-tight game, Lamb suddenly checked into the game. He played a little, then returned later in the second quarter. The Thunder was routed 122-105, and Lamb scored two points in his 7:11.
And his playing time has gone up every game since then: 13:47, 16:32, 19:06. Blowouts all, but Lamb’s playing time has been much more than garbage time. Lamb played the entire second quarter of Game 3.
Lamb’s big production came in Game 2, most of which did come in garbage time, but Lamb made six of eight shots and scored 13 points. In OKC, Lamb made a combined five of 12 shots and scored 13 points.
Thabo Sefolosha’s demotion has opened minutes for others, and Lamb has answered the call.
“He’s just staying ready,” said Kevin Durant. “He’s a mature second‑year guy. He knows what his role is on this team, and he knows he might not play sometimes, and then he might get his number called. He stayed ready, and we’re going to need him to stay ready, because you never know what’ll happen.”
Lamb’s biggest challenge is defense. He got lost on Manu Ginobili a lot in Game 3 — Lamb certainly wasn’t the first — but Lamb has stuck with Danny Green to a decent degree. If he can keep Green from launching 3-pointers, Lamb will keep playing more in this series.