When Kevin Durant’s game-tying 3-pointer dropped through the net with six seconds left in Philadelphia last night, a lot of people thought finally. Finally Scott Brooks drew up a play that worked at the end of the game. Finally Oklahoma City executed said play.
There has been lots of talk about the Thunder in these situations — not as much as the Heat, though — and a lot has centered around the plays Brooks’ clipboard. A lot of the criticism has been that there’s no creativity, that everything is too straightforward and simple.
But upon closer examination of Durant’s big 3, I wouldn’t say it was an ingenious playcall or anything. I wouldn’t say it even close to one of Brooks’ finer sets. Fact is, it worked and that’s what makes it good. I’ve always said about these last second shot situations is how when the ball goes through the net, it suddenly makes a set look really great. And when one clangs long, the play is crap.
That’s why it’s always nice to have a player like KD that can turn a bad play to a very good one just because he’s capable of making tough shots. And that was really the case against the 76ers Wednesday.
From the outset, the play is obvious. With where Serge Ibaka is set up, it’s clear that Durant is about to run off his screen. It all comes down to how good the screen is and maybe more importantly, how good KD sets his man up.
Andre Iguodala is on Durant and is very good at staying on someone’s hip despite getting picked and pushed. So the play starts with Durant giving a small false step toward the paint and pushing Iguodala away to get a little initial separation.
The pick from Ibaka is far from great. He kind of misses and really just sticks his butt out to try and at least get a piece of Iguodala.
What I’m curious about is why not use Nick Collison to set the pick? Is it because that would’ve made things too obvious if Collison were set up where Ibaka is? Or is it because Doug Collins had put Evan Turner in on Ibaka, so if there was a switch, KD would have the smaller Turner on him?
I don’t really know the reason to go with a weaker screen setter in Ibaka there, because I’d have favored Collison.
In that same moment though, you can see Turner is kind of the one that screwed the pooch. He definitely should’ve hedged out on the screen and denied the ball from Westbrook to Durant. Yes, it probably would’ve opened a slip for Ibaka to dive to the bucket, but with 10 seconds left, I think you’d trade those two points instead of giving Durant a decent look for 3.
On the catch, KD has just a little space. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough, since he’s basically seven feet tall. Again, look at Turner. He’s in no man’s land. He’s not doing anything. Probably the ideal defense here if the 76ers could do it over would be for Turner to help on KD, Meeks to rotate down to cover Ibaka leaving Thabo open in the corner. That’s what I’d have done.
But you can see that the play was at least good enough, because Durant has some room. Which is all he needs. Some.
Still, let’s not act like this shot wasn’t contested or defended well. Iguodala is right there. But Durant makes it all work and look lovely because he’s super awesome at basketball.