Jeremy Lamb's length helps the Thunder in subtle ways

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

Jeremy Lamb showed up in Game 4.   (USATSI)
Jeremy Lamb shows up in Game 4 for Oklahoma City. (USATSI)

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It's hard for Scott Brooks to play Jeremy Lamb. The youngster is inexperienced, and inexperienced players make mistakes on defense that are crushing in the playoffs. So the Thunder coach was reluctant to play Lamb in the playoffs, and only resorted to it in Game 4 against the Spurs when Reggie Jackson went down with an ankle injury.

The result?

The box score looks like almost nothing. In the relevant part of the game, from the first quarter through 6:46 in the third quarter (when the Spurs threw in the towel and put out their scrubs, who made a run but not a serious one,) Lamb scored just five points, shot 1 of 4, and had just three rebounds. A nothing night, right?

Except Lamb had three steals and finished with a plus-17 in that stretch.

Now, plus-minus in a single game has a lot of noise and is generally disregarded. But it matches the eye test in Game 4. On a key play early in the second quarter, Lamb and his exceptional wingspan, which helped him earn his high draft position, skied and tapped a ball away from Tiago Splitter.

Against the Grizzlies, Lamb couldn't handle the constant physical pressure. Against the Clippers, Lamb couldn't operate with the awareness necessary. But against the Spurs, the Thunder can risk imprecision in order to maximize their athleticism. And that's where Lamb comes in. Lamb's wingspan helps in attacking the Spurs' dribble, and his 3-point range presents a threat, even if he doesn't cash in on it.

It's little adjustments like this that can determine a series. It's a wonder why it takes injuries or foul trouble (playing Steven Adams over Kendrick Perkins) to help Scott Brooks in the right direction.

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