This fast break moment in last night's game made me positively giddy. Great fast break play is comprised of both spacing and passing. If the spacing is good, the passing is easy. If the passes are accurate, they lead the players into the proper space.
This fast break is actually pretty text book right up until the end, when we realize that some players have the ability to finish plays with a flourish we will never truly comprehend. I love watching plays like this because I feel like the Thunder's fast break offense is vastly improved from a season ago, and very few people have recognized it. A year ago, it seemed like the Thunder wasted a lot of fast break opportunities by not having the proper spacing, which often led to a difficult pass and turnover or an offensive foul. This season though, their fast breaking has been very precise and efficient.
In this play, Kendrick Perkins secured the rebound and fired a perfect chest pass to Kevin Durant who was flying up the right wing. The pass was perfect because it led Durant into wide open space where he could easily catch the ball and have time to decide what to do with it. The next moment is subtle but significant - Durant immediately gives up the ball to Russell Westbrook, who after streaking up the left sideline had worked his way to the middle of the court. There is a reason why coaches, from junior high on up, preach that a proper fast break requires the ball to be in the middle of the court. The reason why is that it makes everything easier. The passing angles are better, the ball has to travel less distance, and there are more options available. If Westbrook had stayed on the wing, he probably would have had one option - to finish the play himself. But by getting the ball into the middle, his touch-pass lob right back to Durant was made much easier, and if Durant was better covered, there would have been plenty of space in the lane for Westbrook to finish the play himself. After receiving the pass, Westbrook never had to let the ball touch the court, made a short pass, and he put it in a place where only Durant could get it. Durant then finished the play over the helpless-looking Jameer Nelson, which really added to the overall flavor. The play took four seconds, involved three passes, and the ball never touched the floor. Perfect.