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NBA Playbook: Where Thunder Offense Went Bad

 It seems like Sebastian Pruiti is working overtime picking apart the Thunder these days. This time, he takes a look at the Thunder's final two meaningful possessions of their loss to the Clippers. I've grabbed his videos and embedded them below, but be sure to read through Pruiti's frame by frame analysis to see precisely where things went bad.

OKC Makes it Easy for Defense Late | NBA Playbook

The second clip as well as some comments are after the jump.

My comments:

  • Watching the play unfold in real-time, the thing that seems most obvious is the poor play of both Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant. Perkins is supposed to set the screen on Durant's man in order to give Durant space out past the 3-point line so that he can catch and shoot for the tie. I understand Pruiti's concern about the simplicity of it, but it sure would have been nice to see a better-executed play here, especially with the entire game on the line. You can see that Perkins is sliding all over the place while he's trying to set his screen, and it almost seems like Durant is trying to avoid Perkins as he comes off of the screen.
  • It is sort of a chicken and egg situation - did Perkins slide his screen because Durant was too far away, or was Durant too far away because he didn't know how far out Perkins was going to slide? At the end of the day, both are at fault for poor execution of a basic play - a screen. Had Perkins remained stout and Durant come off him tightly instead of taking a wide birth to the 3-point arc and giving his man plenty of time to recover, even a simple play call would have avoided such a disastrous end.
  • What makes the interplay between Durant and Perkins even more frustrating is that the same type of sloppiness was present during the loss to the Raptors. Screens are designed to do one thing - stop a defender from chasing his man. However, if the formation cannot do this basic thing, then not only will the play be much harder to complete, but the point of it all has essentially been given to the opposition.
  • Back to Pruiti's original point - the play, a potentially game-deciding play- was both simplistic and left a small margin for error. It was clear that Westbrook was coming to Durant regardless of where he was, so it was imperative that Durant get a clean look at the 3-pointer. The basic nature of the play reminded me once more to the Raptors loss:

  • You can see in the above clip that Leandro Barbosa runs through a double-screen in the lane to make sure that his defender does not get to him. He could have squeezed off that shot in less than a second if he had wanted to. But because the double-screen was so good, Barbosa had time to catch the ball, collect his balance, and fire away with zero resistance. The Raptors are not a good team, but they knew that if you have to get a 3-pointer to tie, then you need to do what is necessary to get that shot as open as possible.

On to the next clip:

 My comments:

  • You can see in this clip that this time around, Nick Collison sets a much better screen on Durant's defender. The chaser is stopped cold. However, because there is nowhere else for Durant to go on the play, the Clippers easily switch Blake Griffin on to Durant, and Griffin easily forces Durant too far out to do anything effectively.
  • This simplistic play reinforces the idea of Pruiti's, that the Thunder's game-deciding sets are too easily recognized. The Clippers are a young team just like the Thunder, but they had no trouble on the screen switch, which left Durant chest-to-chest with the much stronger Griffin.
  • Durant is at his best in open space, where he can run off multiple screens with his lithe frame to catch and shoot. Here, Durant moves maybe 15 feet, which makes it much easier for Griffin to stay with him. The Thunder essentially created a play where they forced the Clippers' best defensive player onto Durant. In other words, they intentionally created the exact opposite of what they should have been going for.