Don’t look now, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have been able to win some basketball games as of late. The team has the second-longest winning streak in the Western Conference (albeit only three games) and are 7-3 over their last 10 contests. They currently have the fifth-best record out west and have shown the ability to leg out close games.
One of the contributing factors, at least during their 120-117 win over Atlanta on Friday night, is the play of Carmelo Anthony. He hasn’t turned into the All-Star caliber performer he’s been in the past or anything, but as he showed against the Hawks, he can slide into a role where he can focus on knocking down shots.
Anthony and Russell Westbrook showed that they could be a lethal pick-and-pop combo in the game, as Anthony went for 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting from behind the arc. Thunder coach Billy Donovan praised Anthony for being “open-minded” about doing what the team needs, while Anthony discussed being “accepting” of a role like this.
“I think for me it’s just a matter of accepting that role. That’s all it is,” Anthony said, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “Realizing that’s what it’s going to be, these are the type of shots I’m going to get, this is the type of offense we’re going to be running and accepting that, and working on that role. That’s something that I’ve kind of been doing over the past week, is allowing myself to accept that role and do whatever I gotta do to make this team win.”
Going from a superstar to the perceived “third guy” in a big three seems like it can be tough, especially if your team struggles like the Thunder have at times this year. Give Anthony some credit for being accepting of a lesser role, even if he’s shown in the past — like during the Olympics — that he’s at his best when he’s picking spots like this and punishing teams with his ability to stretch the floor.