The Thunder had to quell one of Nate Robinson’s insta-runs. Up by 11 midway through the fourth and cruising, Robinson did that thing where he heats up like a microwave on high, scoring five points in a flash.
On the road, it was one of those Danger Moments, where a lead can turn shrink from double-digits, to two possessions, to a possession, to one and then to a deficit just like that.
Scott Brooks called a timeout to simmer things. And during it, drew up a beauty to create an automatic two points for Oklahoma City, and essentially throw a dagger in Denver’s run with seven minutes left.
Kyle Wagner of Deadspin just had a piece too about how statistically, Brooks’ and the Thunder weren’t very good on ATO (after timeout) plays. Maybe not, but against the Nuggets on Tuesday, Brooks put a perfect one in place, and his players couldn’t have executed it much better. The idea: Get Kevin Durant the ball close to the basket. Pretty brilliant plan, right?
Here’s the alignment:
Lots of spacing with the right side overloaded with Lamb and Fisher and Durant at the top of the key ready to run an apparent pick-and-roll with Westbrook.
The initiator is Lamb running a crosscourt cut off a pseudo Durant screen. The Nuggets are probably seeing that action and immediately assuming this play could be for Lamb on either a backdoor lob or a flare-out 3. That was a decoy action to lead into what looks like a Durant-Westbrook screen-and-roll.
And then the Thunder run another decoy off that, feigning the Durant-Westbrook pick-and-roll. Wilson Chandler hedges hard on Westbrook, causing Nate Robinson to have to step up to take Durant on the roll. That frees up Fisher on the right wing, and Westbrook swings it over to him.
Now the Nuggets are scattered and rotating and trying to help everywhere. Underrated aspect of this play is Westbrook timing it out just right to pull Lawson and Chandler far enough away to create the space for Fisher, and cause Robinson to make a choice on if he stays with Durant and gives up the open 3, or if he recovers and trusts his help behind him.
Robinson recovers back to Fisher, and now Kenneth Faried is stepping over to take Durant’s roll. And he’s in complete no-man’s land with no help. He makes the correct choice to stay on Durant, but Fisher’s bullet pass is right on time and right on target. Now Kevin Durant, who shoots better than 70 percent in the restricted area, has the ball a step outside of it.
Thing is, too, Durant could’ve thrown an easy lob to Ibaka for an even easier two points, or found him on a wrap-around pass. Instead, wise decision by KD to just handle it himself, especially because the ball finding its intended destination with Ibaka last night was iffy.
End result: Durant with the ball on the block in single coverage. Automatic points for the Thunder.
It was a pretty simple play that was basically an extrapolated pick-and-roll from Durant and Westbrook. A pick-and-roll with a middle man to complete the final pass. How could the Nuggets have better defended this? It started to fall apart on them as soon as Chandler got out of position, because it caused all the help and rotating to begin.
This is something Nick Collison says a lot, but the Thunder often just needed to properly execute. Their offense can go bad in the halfcourt and things can get ugly. But if they just run the plays right, it can pretty much solve some of that.
They needed a bucket to slow down a Nugget run, and so they went to Durant. But instead of it being an iso 20 feet from the bucket or a backdown, it was a crisply executed play that got him the ball in a high percentage place.
How’s that for an ATO?