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NBA Playbook: James Harden's Big 3-Pointer Brings Back the Thunder

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One critical play that might be tossed aside a bit in the Kevin Durant 4th quarter tornado is the key play that Russell Westbrook, Durant, and James Harden orchestrated that brought the Thunder all the way back to tie the game.

How James Harden Tied the Game for OKC | NBA Playbook

Sebastian Pruiti once again does a great job showing you screen caps of how the play broke down, so be sure to check out his analysis and commentary.

A few more additional comments after the jump.

  • The game is under two minutes to play, the Thunder have come racing back from a nine point deficit, and I'm sure the Nuggets had to be thinking that the Thunder would be looking to tie the game and completely seize the momentum. They had to have been ready for this type of shot.
  • Westbrook really sells the play. I would be willing to bet that Nugget fans were on the edge of their seats willing him to shoot that wide open 3-pointer. When he doesn't hoist it up though, the players probably thought the ball would stay in Durant's hands. As impetuous as Westbrook may seem at times, he demonstrates here that he still understands the team concept and abides by the play that Scott Brooks has called.
  • As I anticipated, Aaron Afflalo simply could not handle Durant, either from a height or quickness standpoint. Durant easily pushes him to receive the ball. As an aside, one of the biggest detractions against Durant this season was his passivity in where he received passes. In this series however, Durant was much more intentional and aggressive in holding his spots. If he were drifting away from the rim instead of attacking, Ty Lawson would not have come up to defend and the play would not have worked.
  • Lawson, for all his offensive prowess, played way too instinctively on defense in this series. He frequently moved to help out on defense when his help defense would not and did not provide any additional support. The Thunder were able to use his trait against him here.
  • Pruiti isn't sure if Serge Ibaka's screen on Lawson is a set play or not, but I definitely think that he knew what he was doing. As Harden drifts into the corner, you see Ibaka steal a look Harden's way to see where he is. He knows his job is to just get in the way, and he sets a good screen. It always makes me curious though how many of plays like these require only a wink/nod, or whether the players are actively and verbally communicating what they're going to do.
  • Big Game James. He played a little bit too passively in this series, as he is still largely deferential to Durant and Westbrook. However, Harden has shown repeatedly this season that he is not afraid of moments like these. I think this play demonstrated tremendous trust between he and his teammates. With more fierce defenders coming on the horizon, the Thunder's chances will be greatly improved when Harden stays involved.