In the Thunder's Wednesday night matchup with the Jazz and their Sunday night matchup with the Warriors, they played Anthony Morrow over 12 consecutive minutes on four separate occasions. If you look as far as seven games back, the Thunder have played him over 12 consecutive minutes once against the Nets, Rockets, and Pistons. That makes it seven total times in the last seven games that Morrow has been given this responsibility.
My question is: Why? Scott Brooks had nine or more players available in all of these games, yet chose to not give Anthony Morrow a break. There's absolutely no reason to leave a player on the floor that long on any level, if it can be avoided. Even Durant has been shown to struggle when he's been given this amount of minutes in the past. Expecting a player to cover his man and score for such a long time under such rigorous conditions is always a challenge, even when you're just a shooter.
But let's get specific. Here's three instances where Morrow's long, uninterrupted stretches on the floor have threatened to change the tide of the game, and not in a positive way.
Nov. 27th vs. Jazz, end of the first half
With the Thunder and Jazz in a relatively tight game, the Thunder are capping off a 14-3 run and hoping to take a single-digit lead into halftime. The Thunder would go on to extend their lead in the early third quarter. However, Morrow was on the tail-end of a marathon 16 minute stretch on the floor. He committed two major defensive errors, which I've pictured for you below:
It's a bit unfair to take these two images out of context, since Morrow was helping on Favors drive during the first play and fighting over a screen on the second play. But it's still apparent, in my view, that he made a decided tactical error on both occasions, causing his man to be left open. Had Hayward hit that open three and Burks been able to get around Adams on the drive, it could have been a very different game in the second half.
Nov. 23rd vs. Warriors, end of the second half
This one's not hard to explain. In the final minute of play, Morrow was on the tail end of a whopping 15.5 minute stretch. Yet, he was called upon to hit a very crucial three on two separate occasions. Neither shot was a piece of cake, but both shots were makeable, and Morrow missed them both. The Thunder ended up losing by 5, so had Morrow's legs been fresher, the outcome of the game could have been entirely different....
Nov. 14th vs. Pistons, end of the second half and overtime
How do you describe an experience that was an absolute nightmare from start to finish? By the time the regulation buzzer had sounded, Morrow had played just over 18 consecutive minutes. That's not a typo. During the tail end of the 16 minute stint, Morrow missed a potentially game-winning floater with 1:07 to go. Overtime doesn't get much better, as Morrow missed two more shots and the tired Thunder were stomped. Morrow didn't have much to be blamed for defensively, though. He was able to hide on the little-used Caron Butler.
Scott Brooks has always had problems managing the minutes of his stars. Now, it's becoming apparent that he has issues with managing lineups, period. Brooks simply doesn't like to make a lot of rapid lineup adjustments during the game, and that can lead to some players playing at really wonky times. Morrow's overuse is just the latest result of this, along with Brooks' penchant to keep scorers on the floor deep into the second half.
What's the solution? Give him a break.
Do you think Anthony Morrow or any other player should be able to handle 15 consecutive minutes of action? Drop a comment and let us know!